Since I love fall so much, this time of year always brings me joy, but this particular year, autumn has been providing an extra-special delight. As a longtime reader and fan of Southern Living magazine, I have dreamed of seeing my byline and recipes among its pages. This year my dream came true, when the November issue arrived, full of beautiful and irresistible Thanksgiving recipes and graced with a big beautiful photo of a piece of pie on the cover.
I wrote the pie-centered feature story on Thanksgiving pies on the cover, entitled “Lost Pies of the South”, and am so proud of how beautifully they photographed each recipe and of seeing one of my pies featured on the cover. Here’s a link to the story, with all the glorious photos, text, details, and, of course, recipes:
The cover photo of the Double Decker Pecan Cheesecake Pie won the hearts of the editors, and earned praise around the magazine world as well. I loved this feature on EATER.com, in which magazine people consider, compare, contrast, and express their thoughts about how various magazines handled the annual Thanksgiving issue. Click here for that convo:
Southern Living wanted ten pies, each of which has a particular connection to a Southern state. This made my job especially interesting, because I love the stories behind the food, the reasons and rhymes and connections which come together in recipes that catch our attention, win a place on our tables, and endure over time. I proposed an array of ideas to consider, and the Southern Living editors chose ten pies for me to research and develop for this cherished annual issue. I love every single one, but you know the North Carolina Persimmon Pie has a particular place in my heart.
If you’ve gathered wild North Carolina persimmons earlier this fall, and have processed them into dark, delicious wild persimmon puree, you know what to do! If not, you can make persimmon puree using the increasingly available fuyu persimmons, which we’ve been finding in numerous grocery stores and farmers’ markets the last few years. These are fuyu persimmons, and they are one of two kinds of domesticated persimmons which you may well find in your area.
Fuyu persimmons look like tomatoes, squat and plump and round, with a flat bottom and substantial calyux on their stem end. They will be orange in color and quite firm. Do not worry about their firmness — they are ripe and ready to eat and use in cooking, even though they are way firmer than you would want a tomato to be, or a peach or a mango, when considering ripeness. They are more like apples and pears, which are quite firm when ripe and ready — but their texture and resemblance to fruits which soften quite a bit when ripe make things confusing.
The other domesticated persimmon you will find in the marketplace, albeit much less often, is the hachiya persimmon. These are oval shaped, elongated, and more like a gigantic strawberry in shape. Here are a fuyu and a hachiya, side by side. The hachiya is on the left, and the fuyu is on the right. The fuyu needs an assist from a small sauce to help it stay put so you can compare their shapes.
Here’s a big basket of fuyu persimmons in a grocery store. These are the ones you want. They look like tomatoes and are very very firm even though they are ripe. Peel them, chop them, and mash them to puree, or else buzz them up or process them in a blender or a food processor. You want a soft, smooth puree, which may be drier than pumpkin, more like sweet mashed sweet potato; or it may be very sort and moist, more like pumpkin puree. As long as you can mix it into the filling you are making, or into a batter, you are fine.
These above are fuyus, tomato shaped, and very firm, even a bit crunchy when ripe.
These above are hachiya persimmons. They are bigger, oblong, and must be super soft and moist, almost a natural puree you scoop out with a spoon, before you eat or use them. If they are firm and not ripe, they won’t work for this recipe because they are astringent until super sweet and soft and ripe.
Here’s my #411 on how to prepare persimmon puree for cooking and baking. Here are fuyu persimmons, one whole and another cored.
Here I’ve begun peeling the cored fuyu persimmon, the one which looks like a tomato and is ripe even when very firm and even crunchy.
Now the easiest thing to do with this lovely firm crunchy ripe fuyu (looks like a tomato, very firm and crunchy even when ripe) persimmon, once you’ve peeled it, is to cut it into wedges as above, and eat it! Isn’t it delicious and lovely and doesn’t it taste like fall? Subtle, sweet, little bit rustic. Tell me what you think about it in the comments….is it new or familiar to you?
But maybe you want to use your fuyu persimmons to make this pie? Or another recipe calling for persimmon puree? Here’s what to do:
Here I’ve mashed it with a fork….
and mashed it more….
…and then pressed it through a sieve to get a very smooth moist puree.
You could also peel a fuyu persimmon, chop it in big chunks, and simply puree the whole thing or a bunch of them in a process or blender. Strain only if needed to push through any lumps the fork leaves behind. Then you are good to go — use in this pie recipe from Southern Living
…or in any recipe where you would use pumpkin puree, or recipes calling for persimmon puree or pulp. If you’ve used persimmons in baking, let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your experiences with them, and what you think about them.
Please enjoy these wonderful recipes, and all the Thanksgiving recipes in this extraordinary issue of Southern Living magazine. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!