wild_persimmon_tree
The wild persimmon tree is a good looking tree,
about 30 feet tall, maybe more.
Wild Persimmons

JOURNEY TO PERCEPTION

persimmonI don't know when I knew that the persimmon tree in our backyard was a persimmon tree. For years I think that I was vaguely aware that a ripe fruit (not that I thought of it as fruit) would drop to the ground, got mashed up, and turned brown. I don't remember ever cleaning it up. But one day, I knew a persimmon was a persimmon, picked one up and ate it and that was that, or so I thought.

A SECOND LOOK

Then in Year 3 of our sanctified school, we began to understand the importance of knowing how to procure "the five"--food, clothing, shelter, water, and fire. Remarkably, this revelation of "the five" came as a result of a homemade mathbook, "Counting with Daniel & Father Book I: Journey to a Colonial Village" which sent us to Jamestowne, VA--birthplace of America--as well as Williamsburg and Yorktown where we had the opportunity to visit living history museums. We had the unique opportunity to view how things were done in the old days. We heard the voice of the Native American, the struggling Jamestowne settler, and the soldier. That following summer, in the aftermath of those explorations, I realized, for the first time, that we had a home but not a homestead. A homestead is a place of self-suffiency where you can take care of your own needs and then pass it on to your children.

persimmon_with_topsHere a new desire was born--a homestead to work and pass on. It made perfect sense that a child should receive such an inheritance and not struggle through life to get indebted to a huge mortgage and dependent on others for every aspect of life--what happened to the way things used to be? But that is another story and another homemade book for another day...we'll have to let Jeb tell that story in his own unique way.

Soon after that life-changing revelation--that we did not have a homestead--we purchased a phenomenal book entitled, "Encyclopedia of Country Living," by the late Carla Emery who has helped mankind in a profound way in sharing her extensive knowledge. (Even now, years later, I still find her book an invaluable resource). We began experiments. I threw a potato full of eyes into the dry ground and amazingly enough, I got back more potatoes than I put in (when you don't know that you can't do something, you try and in the end it sometimes it all works out). We even had a meal of only things we grew--potatoes and a tiny salad. How liberating.

That fall, just a few months later, the previously ignored persimmon tree--full of fruits rich in vitamin A--would take on a new significance in our lives.

PRESERVING THE HARVEST

That summer we had a bumper crop of cucumbers which we canned in the form of pickles and relish. So when the persimmons appeared, we had a mind to preserve them, too. We used an unofficial, modified water canning technique for the preserves based on what a woman told me. She sold us a fig tree. She'd--

I may upload some pictures next time we can. See the end of this article for more information on canning--DO IT THE WRONG WAY AND YOU CAN DIE!

Ways we are preserving this year's harvest (they start falling off the tree in September) of persimmons (one tribe of Native Americans called them "pessamin")--

The pessamin start falling off of the tree late September. I read that older people would say do not eat them until the first frost lest your mouth pucker. I didn't know that and just at the peachy, apricot-colored looking ones you see on this page. My mouth has never puckered. It is now October and I have noticed that the persimmons that fall now are darker in color--one article said they'd become purplish blackish in color and would be "as sweet as apricots". I've never tried them this way and I very much look forward to doing so. They are still falling off in large amounts and the tree still looks full of them! I told Hannah we are going to have to find ways to use them. You just walk outside and pick them up off of the ground. [Update: today is 10-14-09 and I just came in from collecting a bowlfull of persimmons and there are plenty more on the tree. Darker, sweeter, a thicker jell consistency]

canned_persimmonsLike many in my generation, I am new to old ways, but I am blessed to have had grandparents that still lived in the country. They killed, butchered, and cooked a pig before my eyes. They had goat's milk in the refrigerator (though I wouldn't drink it) and a spring to keep milk cool. We picked peas (but I got too hot and sat in the car with the air conditioner on). My grandmother had a cool root cellar underground. My grandfather had squirrel tails as decorations on the doorway to the kitchen he built himself--it looks like he built the house and added on rooms as he needed them...I also watched the women with a big black lidded pot canning fruits and/or vegetables--I didn't know how to water can, but I knew that there was such a thing.

We experimented with different kinds of preservation techniques that year--and we still have the samples.

A LESSON LEARNED

persimmons_in_a_bowl

...Back to persimmons. The next year, I did not do too much with the harvest but put it on the compost pile. Then the next year, there were almost no persimmons and the few I got were delicious! I knew within myself that I would not simply put them on the compost pile again. This year, 2009, we go outside multiple times everyday so that we hardly miss any. I piled up some of the early ones in a spot to attract many bugs away from those that fall to the ground. We rake the leaves away so that we can see the new ones that fall. One morning I found a slug on a persimmon--I killed it and took the persimmon. One little black worm stuck his head out and bit me. I killed him too and then processed the persimmon. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. When you see that you are not promised a harvest, it makes you more diligent. I've put up a quart and a half after just a few days of collecting.

PROCESSING

For processing, I--

  1. pick up the persimmons off the ground,
  2. bring in the bowl of persimmons in,
  3. soak them a few minutes in water to wash them off and draw out any bugs
  4. and then rinse again, not a long process.
  5. I process them (take the seeds out of the membrane with a thumbnail and use them) or I I just put them whole in a freezer bag and in the freezer for later use.

I don't remove skins, just large black spots on the skin, if any. I read that people who have gastric problems should take off the skins because they can bulk up in their systems--I guess like a hairball. I read that Coca-cola is used as a therapy for this. I read about one man who was about 51 years old who had been eating 2.2 pounds of persimmons daily for 40 years who had this problem of persimmon skins bulking up.

[10-31-09 update from the internet: "[The skins of early persimmons] can cause intestinal blockage" [I eat the skins of early--NOT GREEN OR HARD--persimmons but don't eat pounds of them daily and have never had problems. For those with concerns the persimmon juice can be squeezed out and made into jelly]. "Wait until the persimmons start to shrivel somewhat and their skins are thin but full of thick jelly inside. They will actually look overly ripe and are quite delicate at this stage."]

FRESH, CLEAN FOOD

This is not GMO food and my daughter can have fresh fruit year round (our preserves are a nutritious, high energy, food that is also high in calories so we'll watch our intake). I read that one tree can produce 25 pounds of fruit--I don't doubt it.

We made persimmon-oatmeal drop cookies with our preserves and also plan to use them in our delicious banana bread. Of especial note, one does not eat persimmons to lose weight--I read that they can have 100+ calories in a single persimmon--it is not a big fruit. They are a great source of vitamin A. As I understand it, you do NOT want to eat a persimmon while it is still green. Wait until it is ripe. It is an orange, apricot-like color.

PERSIMMON COOKIES
(tasty, nutritious, whole food)

Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet (I like to press them down so they can get a little more dry in the center and perhaps keep longer). Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Makes 4 dozen small cookies.

PERSIMMON QUICKBREAD
(another whole food this one adapted from a banana quickbread recipe. A quickbread requires no kneading. It is leavened by the powders. If you make this with just plain, no honey persimmons and no bananas, it tastes just like a biscuit to me--probably because of the butter not being completely creamed. You don't have to use persimmon preserves, you can just put in persimmons and honey separately. I avoid GMO sugar. At this time, most of our loaves have no added sweetner.)

  1. Preheat 350 degrees F (175 C) Grease pans.
  2. Whisk together flour, soda, salt.
  3. In a separate large bowl, mash up butter and beat in eggs one at a time (butter will be lumpy).
  4. Mix in persimmon preserves. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the creamed mixture. Stir in chopped walnuts. Pour batter (it's thick) into prepared pans (this is supposee to be a cake but I put it in shallow bread pans).
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately butter the tops of the loaves (I do this for all my breads--it makes them soft and delicious).

PERSIMMON COFFEE


CANNING

In addition to the advice from the fig lady, we also watched a terrific video online that showed water bath canning (I think it was from canningusa.com). Canned food is nothing to play with. If the wrong beastie gets in there, it can proliferate and kill you. There are protocols to follow--including ensuring that the air bubbles are worked out of your product--it needs to be heated through and through. [Below is information from canningusa.com concerning canning methods.] I did not use official canning tools. I still don't even though I have a $19 set from Walmart. I do not use it because I only can small amounts at a time. I do, however, use two canning tools out of a $6 set--tongs to hold the hot jars and a magnet to retrieve lids out of the boiling water. After a hot water bath, I set the jars on a damp towel, tightened the lids again, and waited to hear the pops indicating that the lids were sealed--get more information if you want to try this.

Monday, July 27, 2009
Canning Processing Methods Follow-up

I should have mentioned that canning low acid foods in a water bath canner is dangerous. The links in yesterday's post should answer any questions about this. Posted by David Blackburn at 10:49 PM 4 comments

Sunday, July 26, 2009
Canning Processing Methods

The canning season is in full swing now. I've canned cherry jam, cherry pie filling, infused cherries, blueberry jam and apricot jam. I'll be canning apricot pie filling this week. Now that tomatoes are good and cheap, I'll be moving into several tomato sauces in the next week or two. Tomatoes are really good here this year!!!

We've had a number of inquiries about when to use a pressure canner. One of which was from a user who had problems with applesauce batches that did not seal during processing. The applesauce should have been processed in a hot water bath, but she had thought that it would be better to do it in the pressure canner.

It's very important to process using the correct method (hot water bath or pressure canner) and headspace. Most of you know that things expand when heated. The hot water bath, used for high acid content foods, processes at 212 degrees Farenheit, while the pressure canner processes at 240 degrees. The additional heat of the pressure canner is what caused our inquirier's applesauce to expand beyond the allotted headspace, between the cap and the jar, inhibiting a good seal on the jar.

There are four easy to read pages at CanningUSA.com that explain the differences between the two methods and are highly recommended reading. For seasoned canners, you might find it helpful to review these pages at the beginning of each canning season plus your pressure canner manufacturer�s instructions.

[Links on canningusa.com website--]

Canning using the Hot Pack or Cold Pack Method
Processing with a Water Bath
Processing with a Pressure Canner
Altitude Time Adjustments

In addition, our free videos are designed to teach you how to can in a progressive manner in terms of canning difficulty. We highly recommend mastering Video 1 before moving onto Video 2, etc. Once you�ve mastered all six videos, you should be able to can just about anything that is safe to can at home.

Video 1, Canning Jams is the simplest and focuses on the use of a hot water bath. Videos 2 and 3 teach how to can fruits and tomato sauces, also using the hot water bath. Video 4 is the introductory video for the pressure canner and Videos 5 and 6 will teach you how to can more complicated foods with the same pressure canner method.

All recipes at CanningUSA.com refer back to the appropriate video and contain a link to the appropriate page with a reminder of the method.

Happy Canning!

Posted by David Blackburn at 8:59 PM 4 comments