After Austin’s first freeze, here’s how to make homemade persimmon vinegar
Did you pick your lemons before the freeze? What about your pomegranates and persimmons?
Most of Central Texas got a freeze Monday night and into Tuesday, which happens to also be the first meteorological day of winter. It’s our first widespread freeze of the year, too, so plenty of gardeners and plant-lovers were bringing in their beloved houseplants, covering the cold-sensitive crops and plucking any remaining fall fruit.
I have a Meyer lemon tree that has been delivering about half a dozen fruits each winter, as well as a dwarf pomegranate tree that — to our surprise — produced small fruit for the first time this year.
I don’t have a persimmon tree, but I’ve seen several people on social media sharing photos of their bountiful harvests. But what do you do with persimmons? My friend Mariana McEnroe made a simple persimmon agua fresca with her persimmons this year, but she’s also made persimmon vinegar, a tangy, sweet home fermentation project that only requires a jar, a small cloth, a weight and a little patience.
This recipe for persimmon vinegar comes from Andy Hamilton’s cookbook, “Fermenting Everything,” which covers every fermentation project you can think of. For this recipe, he was inspired by a traditional Korean vinegar made with persimmons called gamsikcho, which is used as a condiment and an ingredient for cooking and drinks.
Many grocery stores carry persimmons seasonally, but farmers markets are a good source for local persimmons for the next few weeks.
Persimmon vinegar can be used as a drinking vinegar, much like the shrub, a classic American beverage that features vinegar syrup. The original recipe for Korean persimmon vinegar is to simply put all your persimmons into a tub and leave them for a few months. This recipe, by contrast, uses raw apple cider vinegar to get it started and takes a lot less time. It is based on what I could translate from various Korean sources.
— Andy Hamilton
1 1/2 pounds persimmons
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
Day 1: Cut the stem off the fruit, and then cut most of them in half and a few into quarters. Sterilize a quart-size jar and then add the fruit halves and quarters one by one; the quarters help to plug the gaps. Add a weight to the top, then cover the jar with a small piece of cloth material and a rubber band, and leave it at room temperature in a dark spot for three to four days.
Day 4 to 18: Check that the fruit has started to ferment and also to ensure there is no mold forming. I’m afraid you’ll have to start again if there is any mold.
The liquid in the jar should have risen, and it will now be covering the fruits. If not, then push them down a little. I sneak a taste at this point and it should start to taste fruity, tart and delicious. Ensuring you have reapplied the weight in the jar and the material over it, return your jar to its dark place for an additional two weeks.
If at some point during this time you look at your jar and see a white layer has formed over and around the persimmons, a layer that resembles some kind of glue, don’t worry as this is the new mother forming. At this point, you can jump to the directions for day 18, as in my experience this layer will spread and grow harder and harder until it is difficult to get any vinegar from your persimmons.
Day 18: Strain the fruit by lining a sterilized sieve or colander with cheesecloth and setting it over a sterilized bowl — to be double cautious about rogue microbes you can iron the cheesecloth too as this will further sterilize it. Then pour the liquid from the jar through the cheesecloth; you’ll also need to scoop out the now very mushy persimmons on the cheesecloth and then fold over the edges and put a plate or lid over it to keep flies at bay. This ensures that all the liquid escapes. Be patient and don’t squeeze, as it can add a haze to your final product. This bit can take time so leave it for at least an hour.
Once all the liquid has been strained, pour it back into your jar — check again for mold, as any signs of it mean you’ll have to restart the whole process.
At this stage you can bottle and start drinking your persimmon vinegar. I think it is delicious at this stage; however, you may want to add a bit more time for it to condition, in which case read on.
Day 18 to 32: Return the material and rubber band to the top of your jar and leave in a dark place at room temperature for an additional two weeks. The vinegar will most certainly have a white layer of bacteria sitting on top of it by now. As I mentioned before, this is where it is forming a new mother. You can strain this out and reuse it for making more vinegar or compost it.
Strain the vinegar into a bottle and drink or use as a salad dressing. Makes 1 cup of vinegar.
— From “Fermenting Everything: How to Make Your Own Cultured Butter, Fermented Fish, Perfect Kimchi, and Beyond" by Andy Hamilton (The Countryman Press, $21.95)