Although it’s easier to find persimmons in grocery stores these days, they still somewhat unfamiliar to many American cooks.
There are two primary kinds of persimmons available for sale in the U.S.: Hachiya (classified as astringent) and Fuyu (non-astringent).
If you’ve ever taken a bite of an unripe persimmon, either a Hachiya or a Fuyu, you know what this means: a mouth-puckering dryness that comes from high levels of tannins and makes you wonder how these bright orange fruits are considered edible in the first place.
However, if you can wait until they are ripe, persimmons have a soft, mild, almost honeylike sweetness that’s worth seeking out for the few weeks that they are in season.
The tomato-shaped Fuyu persimmons, when ripe, have a texture between an apricot and an apple, which means you can peel and chop them to put into salads, pies or roasted alongside pork or chicken.
But the acorn-shaped Hachiya persimmons need to ripen at room temperature until they are very soft to the touch. At this stage, you can simply scoop out the flesh and eat it, almost like ice cream, I’ve heard some persimmon lovers say.
There is a variety of persimmon that is native to Central Texas, but Fuyu persimmons are the most common variety that you’ll find at grocery stores and at many local farmers markets this time of year.
If you’ve never cooked with persimmons before, you might try starting with this persimmon streusel from "365: A Year of Everyday Cooking and Baking" by Meike Peters (Prestel, $40). It’s not a pie, but it’s a seasonal dessert that would be a not-your-average addition to a Thanksgiving potluck.
Because the recipe calls for pureeing the persimmon with orange juice and honey, you could, hypothetically, use any variety of ripe persimmon, including the ultra-soft Hachiya, but again, use patience and wait until the fruit is ripe. There’s enough sugar in the streusel to compensate for some of that dryness, but you can add a little extra if you start working with the persimmons and realize they aren’t quite at peak sweetness yet.
Persimmon Streusel Bars
Buttery shortbread topped with pureeed jellylike persimmons and crunchy crumble makes the most delicious streusel bars. They’ll get you in the mood for festive baking.
— Meike Peters
For the filling:
18 ounces peeled ripe persimmons
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the pastry:
3 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, beaten
Heat the oven to 350 degrees (preferably convection setting). Butter an 11-inch-by-9-inch baking dish.
For the filling, puree the persimmons, orange juice, honey, vanilla seeds and salt in a food processor or blender until smooth.
For the pastry, combine the flour, sugar, vanilla seeds and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and use a knife to cut it into the flour until there are just small pieces left. Add the egg and quickly mix the butter and egg into the mixture with your fingers until crumbly.
Transfer about 2/3 of the crumbles to the prepared baking dish, spread evenly, and push them into the baking dish, especially along the edges, until they create a firm layer. Spread the persimmon filling on top and sprinkle with the remaining crumbles. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes (slightly longer if using a conventional oven) or until golden brown and crunchy. Let cool for about 15 minutes before cutting into 12 large or 24 small streusel bars.
The streusel bars taste best on the first and second day after they are baked. Serves 4 to 6.
— From "365: A Year of Everyday Cooking and Baking" by Meike Peters (Prestel, $40)