In the cool, crisp months of fall, a less commonly known seasonal fruit appears at area tailgate markets: shiny, vibrant orange persimmons. Originating in Japan, persimmons are memorable: when under ripe, their sour taste threatens to turn your mouth inside out, but when ripe, the fruit is impossibly juicy and sweet, resembling “a cross between apples and pears,” says Chue Lee, owner of Lee’s One Fortune Farm in Marion, which grows and sells persimmons to local restaurants in Asheville, as well as at farmers markets throughout Buncombe County.
Although you can enjoy persimmons fresh or sun-dried, Angela Kelly, chef and owner of Boone’s Southern eatery Proper, likes to use them in lieu of apples for a butter that’s great on both sweet and savory dishes, though she concedes that the combination of chilly temperatures and hot, flaky biscuits smeared with persimmon butter is one that’s nigh on impossible to beat.
So seek out some ripe persimmons and try Kelly’s recipe at home for a treat this fall.
(Yields 2 pts.)
12 ripe persimmons
1/2 cup sugar (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Peel and dice the persimmons. In a pot, add water until persimmons are just covered and cook over medium heat until soft, about 45 minutes to an hour. Drain and purée in a food processor until smooth. Add the persimmon mash back to the pot with the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and cook over low heat for an additional hour, stirring often. If the mixture becomes too thick, add a little water. Let cool and serve. Leftover butter will keep for two weeks in the fridge.
Lee’s One Fortune Farm
156 McKinney Rd., Marion
142 Water St., Boone