You read that right: persimmon pickles!
An over abundance of fruit usually inspires one to jam or jelly making. However most fruit canning recipes call for lots of sugar, and I'd like to find a way to preserve the harvest without adding extra sugar. So far the best way has been to simply freeze the fruit, but freezer space is limited. Making persimmon sauce is another good method, but I am not sure it can be canned safely. (More research needed; it turns out that the natural acidity of the fruit has to be just right in order to can it safely.)
My epiphany came when I discovered that naturally tart flavors, such as yogurt, pair nicely with persimmons. Could one actually pickle them? I no sooner had formed this question in my mind, planning to devise my own experiment, when I ran across just such a recipe on Sunset.com web site. (Weirdly, I cannot find their link to the original recipe!) Their recipe is called Fuyu Persimmon Chili Pickles, and calls for the addition of red hot peppers and additional vegetables in the mix such as onions and bell peppers. I could not find the type of red peppers I wanted at the store, so I substituted a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. I also ended up pickling more persimmons than the other vegetables, because that was my main concern.
Here is the original recipe:
FUYU PERSIMMON CHILI PICKLES
(excerpted from Sunset .com preserving persimmons article)
4 pounds crisp-ripe Fuyu-type persimmons
3 medium-size onions
2 medium-size green bell peppers, stemmed and seeded
8 medium-size cloves garlic
12 small dried hot red chilies
6 cups water
2 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon picking spices
Peel, core and cut persimmons into 1-inch wedges, discarding any seeds. Cut the onions and bell peppers into 1-inch squares; set fruit and vegetables aside.
Peel and slightly crush the garlic; break each chili in half.
In a 4- to 6-quart pan, bring garlic, chili, water, vinegar, salt, and pickling spices to boiling on high heat. In batches, blanch the persimmons briefly in the hot water and set aside to drain.
Pour 1/8 of the onions into each of 8 hot canning jars, 1-pint size. Add 1/8 of the persimmons to each jar, then top with 1/8 of the bell peppers. Bring cooking liquid to boiling and pour equally into each jar, filling to within 1/4 inch of rim.
Can fruit, following traditional methods. Store in a cool, dark place at least 2 weeks before serving. If jars do not seal, store up to 6 months in the refrigerator, up to 1 month if opened. Makes 8 pints.
This was my first foray into "real" canning, and it was both daunting and fun.
Here is the daunting part:
Now, I know that steam is very very hot and can burn, (I always drain pasta holding it well away from my body and face) but I did indeed make the Rookie Error of reaching over the pot of simmering jars, and count myself lucky that the burn I got was actually rather mild and only hurt for a day. And I only nicked myself with the knife twice, peeling those slippery pieces of fruit.
Here's another thing I learned: Take the amount of time you think it will take to prepare the fruit, and then double it. And prepare it ALL before you begin the canning process, because you don't want your pickling solution to boil away before the fruit is ready. I know this from personal and unfortunate experience.
Having said that, we have been waiting patiently for a couple of weeks while the persimmon pickles make their magic transformation. I am about ready to crack open a jar and see if I am happy with the results. I am a tad concerned that the fruit was too soft, and that the texture will come out mushy. (shudder). I suppose if it does I could puree it into a kind of pickled chutney? I'll report back.
But don't the jars look all pretty? It makes me happy to see them in the pantry.