Butter, jelly, jam, preserves, marmalade: you name it, I love to spread it on carbs of some kind. Oddly enough, I had never attempted making any of the aforementioned toast toppers in my own kitchen. I was perfectly happy stocking my fridge with Bonne Maman, St. Dalfour's, jars we've picked up on our travels, and the occasional local jam from Urban Canning Company.
My Great Aunt Mil always arrived in Florida every spring with her famous blackberry jam. She hand-picks the berries from her property and makes many jars so that we can each have our very own--things used to get ugly when there was only one jar per family to go around. It was always worth waiting an entire year for; we enjoyed her jam so much that before her plane landed back in Pittsburgh, our new jars were close to being empty. Since she stopped making her yearly trips, I have been missing her and her yummy gifts--so much so, that I knew it was time to take on the task myself. The blackberry jam experiment will need to be postponed until those bulbous beauties come back in season; but for now, I decided to use something a bit unconventional, but in season: persimmon!
Persimmons are the unsung heroes of fall produce. They may resemble a tomato in looks, but their taste is anything but comparable. A persimmon's sweetness increases as it ripens with hints of vanilla, mango and custard. There are two different varieties that look very similar but behave very differently. Fuyu persimmons are the flatter, squattier variety. Their texture is slightly grainy like a softened apple when firm and soft like a mango when fully ripe. They can be eaten at either stage and are delicious in salads, on their own, or on a cheese plate. Hachiya persimmons are more rounded and shaped like a large peach. Note that these CANNOT be eaten when firm--or even slightly soft--or else their vanilla, mango-y goodness would be replaced with a big bite of dry, chalky bitterness. These guys have to be ripe--and Hachiya ripe means downright squishy. Stirred into yogurt, eaten with a spoon, or mixed into a fruit salad are the best applications for this softer variety.
Rather than playing with pectin and spending the effort of sterilizing jars for a jam, I opted to make a butter: just fruit, simmered down with spices and a bit of sugar until it becomes thick and spreadable. Butters require very little babysitting and can be stored in an unsterilized--but clean and dry--jar. The result was a tasty, slightly spiced concoction that we proceeded to spread on anything we could get our hands on; it even made a basic piece of Italian bread toast taste fancy.
I love finding success after fiddling around in the kitchen with a new ingredient; it's encouraging! It certainly makes up for those times when the results of experimentation are less than appetizing--it's all part of the creative process. It's going to take me a bit more time to get more familiar with this previously unfamiliar fruit, but we are off to a good start. I have six more persimmons sitting on my counter right now and have my sights set on a baked good of some nature for round two...wish me luck!