PERSIMMONS. I better hurry up and pick them before the frost makes them burst.
Every autumn it’s the same story. We first have a brief spell of leaf glory, when the proverbial Umbrian green turns to golden and red. Then rain comes, more rain than we want. Everything becomes gray except the persimmons. You see them whimsically dotting orchards and gardens with their naked orangeness.
The Umbrian fall is too cold to ripen them on the tree. We pick them and put them in plastic bags together with an apple or two. Apples release ethylene, a ripening plant-hormone. After a few days they are soft and can be eaten fresh or preserved.
It’s a very delicate fruit whose flavor boils easily away. This recipe is the result of several experiments, it’s Christmassy, aromatic and comforting. It even pleases people who don’t like persimmons, like my friend Rebecca. She has admitted to have polished a whole jar before her kids returned from school so to avoid competition.
- 3 oranges
- approx 1.8 kg (4 lb) ripe persimmon
- 1.6 kg (3.5 lb) sugar
- powdered or liquid citrus pectin (in Italy use 2 pouches of Fruttapec 1:1)
- 1 teaspoon China 5-spices
Pectin products vary from place to place. Buy your favorite pectin and use it according to package instructions. You can also make the jam without pectin, by boiling it slowly until thick. In this case but make sure to add the spices and orange juice at the end to preserve their flavor.
Halve and juice the oranges. Reserve the juice. Put peels in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Drain. Return peels to pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil, cook 3 minutes, and drain. Repeat once more if you have thick skinned oranges. Strain and leave them in a colander until cool enough to handle, 20 minutes. Using a soup spoon, scrape out the membranes and discard. Cut the peels into thin strips.
Clean, peel and chop persimmons. Make sure to peel them completely because the peel becomes like hard leather once cooked.
Add the orange juice, spices and chopped peel to the cleaned and chopped persimmons.
Add pectin and sugar following package instructions. Boil and transfer into sterilized jars. Seal.