Thursday, November 15, 2018

Keeper of the Recipe: Persimmon Cookies

I bear the sacred mantle. It was not really given to me, but somehow I seemed to have accepted it, lo, those many years ago. At some point in time, I became The Keeper of the Recipe. I may not have been the only one to have had it handwritten, stuffed in a drawer or a binder, but I was always able to come up with it when I would get the call. “Carolyn! Have you got Grandma’s Persimmon Cookie Recipe! I need it right now!”

I looked back over my blog posts, and although I see that I mentioned these cookies, I couldn’t see a post dedicated to them. So if I already did, well then, here it is again.
These were the cookies that my Grandma Giva (say “GUY-vuh”) always made. I don’t remember her ever making any other kind. I helped her make them whenever the stars lined up, and I was always in awe of how particular she was at each step. I value speed a lot when I’m making something, and when I decide that some step “doesn’t matter how I get that part done,” then I leave it out or do it the quick way. So I’m going to tell you how to make these, inserting her special ways.

Now, you may say, What? I don’t need another persimmon cookie recipe. I’ve got a bunch already, I can look on the internet, and besides, they aren’t all that great, anyway. Well, these are! They are not “cakey” like muffin mounds, and I suspect there is a bit of caramelization happening to improve the flavor. They aren’t sticky and soft, more chewy, yet not crisp.
Here is how you make them (recipe below):
First, take the persimmon pulp and stir the baking soda into it, then set it aside while you make the batter. 

If you know anything about persimmons, you know you have to use Hachiyas, NOT Fuyus. Fuyus are shaped like apples. They are crunchy and edible, and don’t get nice and squishy. Hachiyas are too astringent to even taste before they get really soft. If you need to hurry up the softening  process, you can stick a firm one in the freezer and then thaw it. But really, you need to just have some on the counter getting soft until you need them. Pull the peels off, and the cap. Once in awhile there will be seeds. They look like long skinny date seeds. Discard them. There will probably be some firm jelly-like sections. A stick blender can mush those all in, but try to leave it a little chunky. 

Cream together the butter and the sugar. 

Beat in the egg. 

At this point you need to add in the nuts and the raisins. Grandma always called them “nutmeats” which feels so quaint and memorable that I always say it when I make these. She would prepare them ahead of time. The raisins got the once-over, checking for stems. And the nutmeats got sliced. That’s right, not chopped or ground up in nut grinder, but sliced with her razor sharp paring knife that I think was really a utility knife of some sort. Each walnut got the treatment, sliced into the perfect sized pieces. I like the bigger chunks of nutmeats like this better than the way a chopper or grinder leaves them, but what I do is just break them up with my fingers. So stir them in now.

Now you sift in the dry ingredients. (but not the baking soda, which has already been added to the pulp) I love the spiciness of these cookies, so I always heap my cinnamon. But Grandma was always a very careful measurer, so you must just do as you are led. Grandma did NOT like cloves. I think it is possible that her original recipe called for cloves, and she just left it out. Because she did NOT like it. But I do, so I have added cloves in the amount that seems best. 

By now you have a crumbly mixture that doesn’t seem much like cookie dough. But it is time to add the pulp. And the pretty orange pulp has changed! The baking soda has stiffened it. So when you mix it in, it is less like a liquid and more like a jelly. Once everything is homogenous, it is ready to bake. 

You need to make big honkin’ cookies. If they are small, you can’t leave them in the oven long enough to cook to the right level of brownness and chewiness. Scoop out a wad of dough and spread it out with a fork. You MUST use a fork and nothing else. Because that’s how Grandma did it. They will be about the size of your palm (if your palm isn’t huge) and a half-inch thick before cooking. Don’t let them touch each other. (Grandma never did, and even though I get hasty and shove other cookies together sometimes, I don’t with these. Out of respect) 

Grandma had one of those big, ancient, wonderful, mysterious gas ovens of older times. There were simmering burners hidden in the regular burners. There were two ovens, and other stuff I don’t remember much. She did not feel like her oven baked evenly, and so the pans got shuffled around inside a couple times during the baking process. You can do that if your oven bakes unevenly, or you can do that just to honor the recipe, but the most important thing is to let them bake until they are done properly. And that means very brown. Brown enough so that they won’t be sticky and soft. But NOT brown enough to end up crunchy when they cool. And that, my friend, you and your oven will have to figure out yourselves.

Grandma’s Persimmon Cookies

1 cup persimmon pulp
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup nutmeats (walnuts)
1 cup raisins 
2 cups flour (please use white flour!)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon (or more)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves

Preheat oven to 375°.
Dissolve baking soda in persimmon pulp. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg. Mix.
Stir in nutmeats and raisins.
Sift together dry ingredients, add to creamed mixture, stirring in.
Add persimmon pulp (with baking soda dissolved in it) Mix until blended.
Drop by large spoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet (I use parchment paper), then, with a fork, spread the cookies out.
Bake until cookies are golden brown, with fairly dark brown edges. 

From Grandma Give Brokaw Roberts

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