Bright orange. Looks like a pumpkin. Does not taste like pumpkin. Tastes better than a pumpkin. It is a persimmon! (At least the Fuyu one.)
“I never had a persimmon before,” a friend said when I served him a scoop of the five-spiced persimmon ice cream.
I was awestruck. Never had a persimmon ever?
Growing up, my mom constantly purchased persimmons…almost in bulk at the weekly farmers markets. Bruised or dotted with black spots, they were on sale, but still as good as the perfectly shaped ones. She always bought the plentiful Fuyu persimmons with its squat bottom. (Differences between Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons.) My picky younger self avoided many fruits and this was one of them. After dinner, my mom carefully peeled the persimmons, leaving finger-sized slivers on a napkin. She ate the peeled persimmon quickly, relishing the light sweet juice. Not quite floral, not quite peachy, but something of its own. Vanilla, maybe? A gentle nudge of sweet? A reminder that the fall and the winter had arrived.
Now older, I can imagine the crunch. I love my fruit crunchy and persimmons offer just that. Unlike my mom, when I find a sale of persimmons, I eat them with the skin on (like how I eat watermelon with seeds). Typically, I don’t run into much Hachiya persimmons, but Fuyu persimmons oh yes.
After finding a sale at a local market (and a friend offloading a bunch from his aunt’s tree) I couldn’t help but make an ice cream with it!
To heighten the flavor of persimmons (and a callback to my Asian childhood), I added Chinese five-spice powder. (Also inspired by the orange squash thing—the pumpkin five-spice ice cream from Humphry Slocombe and Jeni’s). A few years ago, a friend introduced five-spice powder to me when he and his girlfriend moved out. In a paper bag, he had stuffed random spices from cinnamon, garlic powder, juniper berries, bay leaves…and Chinese five-spice.
“It makes everything so much better!” he said.
To my surprise, it enhanced flavors of chicken and soups since then. Perfect to bring in warm aromas of the five spices: anise, cloves, fennel seeds, ginger and cinnamon. Previously, I had only used the spices as separate elements, but having everything together (grounded up) was a quick addition to anything. Especially ice cream, of course. In this case, not a pumpkin pie, but perhaps like a spiced persimmon bread/cookies/pie/jam.
5-6 ripe Fuyu or Hachiya persimmons or 2 cups of persimmon puree
1/4 teaspoon salt
spoonful of honey
2 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cup half and half
2 tablespoon cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 cup water
1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
Peel the persimmons. If the persimmons are ripe, the flesh should be easily scoopable out from the skins. If the persimmons are semi-ripe (and that is okay), quarter the persimmons and place into a food processor and blender. Puree the persimmons. There should be approximately 2 cups.
In a large bowl combine the persimmon puree, salt, honey and cream cheese.
In a small bowl, mix about 4 tablespoons of half and half with the cornstarch to make a smooth slurry.
In a saucepan, combine the remaining half and half, sugar, water, and Chinese five-spice powder. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the slurry. Return the saucepan to medium heat. Stir. Remove from heat when the mixture is thickens, about 1 minute.
Gradually mix in the hot cream mixture into the persimmon mixture until well combined.
Chill thoroughly at least 3 hours or overnight to enhance the flavors. Once chilled, churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Serve with small wedges of fresh persimmon.
Written in January 2013