Tuesday, November 12, 2013

There's More than One Way to Peel a Persimmon...

...but there really is only one EFFECTIVE way.  

This is a SUPER text-heavy post. Sorry. I had better things to do yesterday than obsessively document my jam-making adventures.

I bought about 4lbs of persimmons the other day, with the vague notion of making jam over Armistice Day.  I forgot pectin, though, so on my trip back to the local granola-food store to pick up a couple boxes, I wandered over to the “used fruit” section and noticed that there were WHOLE BAGS of persimmons for like $0.80 apiece!  I couldn’t resist.  And then, of course, if you give Claire WHOLE BAGS of persimmons, she needs more sugar to mix with it, and then she needs more pectin to make it all set, and then she needs more jars to put it all in… So moral of the story, I went into the granola-food store to pick up one box of pectin.  I left with a 12-pack of half-pint canning jars, 2 boxes of pectin, and 6 more pounds of persimmons.  I didn’t bring a bag, because again, I just went to the store for one lousy box of pectin, so I ended up strapping everything onto my bike and pedalling back home.

Persimmons aren’t a fruit that grows in Kansas, so I had no idea how to make them into jam.  All of the recipes were like “Ermm… 3 pounds of fruit…2 cups of fruit..” but didn’t say if those were PREPARED cups of fruit, or just straight-up persimmons like what you’d find laying on the ground.  Not helpful.  And you can’t just cobble together a jam recipe, because if you don’t put in enough sugar, or have an unequal pectin-to-pulp ratio, it just falls apart and won’t set.  It’s real picky.  A real pain.  So in the end… I cobbled together the jam recipe.  

I also had no idea how to prepare persimmons.  You may not have ever seen one, but they look like tomatoes, but they’re orange and really firm. Like a little rock.  Or the brownies in the Bethel Caf.  Not very peel-friendly.  I looked up a couple of tutorials online, and they were like “Um duh, just peel it!”  Not helpful.  So I started cutting them into quarters and then took a paring knife and cut little shavings of peel off until I had a fully peeled persimmon.  It took like 10 minutes.  For one fruit.  I had 10 pounds of fruit.  Not realistic at all.  

I eventually settled on cutting the fruit into quarters, cutting out the core, then taking a small spoon and sliding it between the flesh and the peel.  And that worked fairly well.  Almost TOO well, in fact, because about every tenth fruit, I would get a little overzealous with the spoon, forget to hold onto the fruit, and the darn thing would ricochet off the counter and go sliding slipperily onto the floor!  And then, of course, I had to throw it away, because nothing in my house is more disgusting than our kitchen floor.  It’s like this really weird sort of hard rubber tile… I’m not really sure.  Anyway, it’s perpetually grimy, even though I spend a lot of time trying to clean it.  It. is. disgusting.  So there was some wasted effort, anyway.

After I had peeled all of those stupid persimmons (A day later, I still have a dent on my index finger from the handle of the spoon), then it was time to actually make the jam!  Ben bought me a food processor for Christmas because he wants me to make him pesto and hummus (insert “Father of the Bride” quote here - “HE BOUGHT ME A BLENDER!!!!!”).  So I decided that it’s inaugural usage would be for chopping up persimmons, and it did really well.  Unfortunately, my roommate was sleeping on the living room couch, and that thing is REALLY loud, so I was trying to be considerate and not run the roaring monster too much, so that Danny could catch some z’s.  As a result, I had to spoon out a few large chunks.  

Once I had all the persimmons chopped into a pulpy mass, I added the pectin, some lemon juice and a bit of water as per my made-up recipe, and set it on the stove to boil.  I didn’t pay enough attention, though, because it started boiling when I wasn’t paying attention, and a piece of boiling-hot persimmon hit me right under the eye!  Better than in the eye, I guess… Once it was at a rolling boil, and spewing boiling-hot persimmon chunks everywhere, I added an ENTIRE BAG of sugar (as per my made-up recipe), and let it boil again.  

Finally I was ready to spoon it into jars!  I didn’t have a canning funnel (fail), so I just sort of made due.  I didn’t spill very much jam though, just a tablespoon or two here and there.  I ended up filling two 12-packs of half-pint jars (that’s 24 half-pints or 12 pints) and I still had some left over!  So I dug out this tiny little jar that I had, and then this other pint jar… and it STILL wasn’t enough!  So I dug around in the morass of leftover containers and “Mennonite Tupperware” and managed to scrounge an old jam jar from the store.  

All in all, I had 27 half-pints of persimmon jam, give or take.  

Here is a picture of my jam wall.  

I had a little bit of the jam foam on a cracker.  Oddly, tasted pretty good!