During my teaching career, the only Christmas baking I ever got to do was with the students in my class. I loved the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, filling it with studies of the customs and traditions we celebrate in America. My mom’s persimmon cookies and persimmon pudding always bring me back to this special childhood time.
Most children I’ve worked with (and their parents as well) aren’t familiar with persimmons. Although they are native to the United States, and were a food source for native Americans and early settlers, they aren’t very well-known. Ripening in late fall, they are a wonderful, vibrant, orange fruit. They can be sliced and dried—very sweet, almost like candy. To use them in making jam, pudding and cookies, they need to be very ripe, quite squishy to the touch, like a water balloon. Cut off the stem and the top of the fruit, then peel the leathery skin off. You won’t need a peeler, the skin just pulls off easily. It’s VERY messy, and most kids love to do this. Be sure to have a bucket or tub of soapy water, and towels right next to the “peeling station!” Cut into fourths and remove the hard rind that runs through the center of the fruit. (It’s kind of like cutting out the apple core.) Cut into pieces and put into a blender to mash it up, or crush it into pulp with a fork. Each persimmon makes about 1/2 cup of mashed fruit. Then it’s ready to bake with.
Here’s my mom’s recipe for Persimmon Cookies. They’ve been a hit every time I’ve used them, even though the kids thought they would be gross! I can’t remember a child that wasn’t surprised at how good they are, and many asked for a copy of the recipe. Plus they get better with time: at first they are a little dry, but they become more moist the longer they sit!
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup mashed persimmon (2 persimmons)
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 cups of walnuts (depending on your taste)
2 cups flour
1. Soften the butter.
2. Add the sugar and egg. Mix well.
3. Stir in mashed persimmon.
4. Add soda, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
5. Stir in walnuts.
6. Slowly add the flour, stirring as you add. Combine all ingredients well.
7. Drop spoonful size cookies onto a sprayed cookie sheet.
8. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes. (10-12 minutes in a convection oven. Check frequently.)
Makes about 50 cookies.