Until last year, I don’t think I had ever eaten a persimmon. But once I realized this, I resolved to rectify the situation, and it was love at first bite.
Persimmons have an alluring flavor, moderately sweet, a little exotic, and subtle hints of cinnamon or allspice; we decided it tasted sort of like Christmas, if Christmas had a flavor. It’s hard to describe, so do yourself a favor and just try one. I liked that first one so much that I went out and planted my own persimmon tree this year (there are varieties that are native to North America, so if you’re lucky, you may even have a wild one nearby).
If you buy a persimmon in the store, it will probably be one of two varieties: Fuyu or Hachiya, both Asian varieties. One note of warning: astringent varieties (Hachiya) are pretty much inedible until they’re fully ripe. Once it’s squishy, scoop the flesh out of the skin, almost like a jelly or custard. Non-astringent varieties (Fuyu) can be eaten when still firm, almost like an apple, although they’ll develop a little more sweetness as they age too.
I could down a handful of these with no problem, but I wanted to come up with something worthy of highlighting this unique fruit. After careful deliberation, we decided on a persimmon panna cotta: panna cotta sounds fancy, I love custard/pudding-type desserts, and it’s really easy to make.
To make this persimmon panna cotta, you’ll need little more than cream, sugar, and gelatin. If you can’t or won’t have dairy, you can also use a milk substitute like coconut or almond, though it may not end up quite as delicious.
Start by adding a couple cups of cream (or 1/2 cream, 1/2 milk) and 1/4 cup of sugar to a saucepan. Cut 3-4 ripe persimmons in half and scoop the flesh into the cream (no seeds or pits to worry about). Simmer this over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it’s bubbling, it’s too hot – there should just be a few wisps of steam coming off. At this point, you’re just trying to help the persimmon break down a bit.
While the cream is simmering, set aside another 1/4 cup of cream in a bowl and sprinkle a tablespoon of gelatin over the cream. Let this sit for about five minutes.
Whisk the simmering cream mixture vigorously, or use an immersion blender to make sure you don’t have any big persimmon chunks.
Remove the cream from the heat and add the gelatin mixture, stirring until completely dissolved. Add a dash of cinnamon and cloves, and a splash of vanilla if you so desire.
Pour the mixture into your molds (glasses, ramekins, etc.). Toss them into the fridge and cool until set. Just before serving, top the persimmon panna cotta with a sprinkle of nutmeg.