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Persimmon Cookies


Over the holidays, a coworker (thanks Shari!) brought several bags of persimmons into the office to give away from a tree in her yard that she and her husband had planted at least a decade ago. (For great information on the fruit, see MM Pack's article in Edible Austin.) I'm guessing my coworker's were the Hachiya variety of Asian persimmon.... large and bright orangey-red. I feel like I should have memories of eating persimmons or seeing them in a family member's yard, but I don't. Like a piece of music that sounds so familiar, but you just can't decide if you've really heard it before, the fruit must have been on the peripheral of my childhood, but didn't feature prominently.

My Uncle Bobby relayed this memory from his childhood in Hallettsville in Lavaca County... "We had a wild persimmon tree when we were growing up in the corner of the yard by the motel. The wild ones are very small, but tasty, and I remember eating them when they were ripe. Datu (his mother) hated that tree, because possums loved it, and I can't tell you how many times one of us had to knock one of those varmints out of the tree in the middle of the night to stop the relentless barking from one of our dogs. A very fond memory now looking back on it."

I had in my mind that people make jam or cookies with the fruit, not eat them fresh. I asked my parents what persimmons could be used for and they said "Oh, jam or cookies." An aunt... "jam or cookies." My sister... "jam or cookies." 

There was a persimmon tree growing in my great-grandmother Zielonka's yard in Radcliffe, near Cuero in DeWitt County. When I asked my father if he remembered her making jam, he said his grandparents were "molasses people, not jam people." He does remember her making cookies, though, and they would have been sweetened with molasses, not white sugar. I think there's a blurry line between Czech/German/Polish cooking in the 19th and early 20th and just rural Texas cooking (with a little Southern and Mexican thrown in to muddy the waters, too.) My Dad did a little culinary research, which he's so good at, and found the recipe below in his copy of a Hillje cookbook so that's the one I tried. It does not use molasses, but I might try that next time.

As often happens in my kitchen, the persimmons sat on the counter for a long time, ostensibly to ripen, but mostly because I was-am always busy. By the time I had an evening to bake, they were very, very ripe. I needed only to slice them in half and squeeze the pulp into a bowl, like you'd squeeze the juice from half an orange. 

Grating in the nutmeg.


All ingredients added in and about to be mixed. The pecans and raisins
are sitting on top of the spice and persimmon-colored batter.


Persimmon Cookies
by Mrs. Clem Holub in "A Key to Good Cooking," published by the Hillje Altar Society (Hillje, TX) in the 1950s or 60s

1  cup persimmon pulp
1  1/2  cups sugar
1  egg
1  tsp. salt
1/2  tsp. cinnamon
1/2  tsp. cloves
1/2  tsp. nutmeg
1/2  cup shortening (I used unsalted butter)
2  cups flour
1  tsp. baking soda
1  cup raisins
1  cup nuts (I used Texas pecans, of course)

Mix together well.  Drop on greased cookie sheet and flatten. Bake at 350 degrees about 10 to 12 minutes.


The cookies were wonderful... fragrant, soft and chewy, and reminiscent of pumpkin pie. I've struggled the last few years trying to figure out what MY Christmas cookies would be and these may be a new tradition. My sister and I both feel compelled to make the cookies my mom made when we were children; the cookies that are traditional to us... ginger crinkles, Russian tea cakes, pressed Spritz cookies, mint-flavored pinwheel cookies. But since my mom still makes those things for us, we're pressed to find other things to take to the three family Christmas gatherings where we're all in the same place at the same time bringing cookies. These seem particularly appropriate since persimmons are ripe around the holidays and you can't get much more local than fruit from a neighbor's yard. Well, I could plant a tree in my yard and be uber-local, but I'm renting and don't know where I'll be in 10 years. 


My coworker's crop. Photo by S. Straight.


Comments

  1. Yum, I will have to try those. We had a Persimmon tree in the yard when I was growing up, and my mom did occasionally make jelly (though I don't recall every trying it as a kid). Mostly we got in trouble for pelting them against the side of the house and watching them explode. Ah, childhood...

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  2. The tree is actually a Fuyu persimmon tree. The cookies were delicious!

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  3. Fantastic story about pelting the house! Kids will be kids... eat it or throw it (true from the highchair through the teenage years.)

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  4. I found your recipe and it was a big hit! The best cookies ever! Reminded me of cookies my Oma made in Germany (originally from Sudentland).

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  5. Thanks, Maria - so glad it worked for you. I still have persimmon pulp in the freezer. You just reminded me to take it out and make another batch. Thanks for reading.

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