I’m not the only person that turns to Ken Hilton for a little brewing advice. That being the case, and with some inquisitiveness from a reader about his persimmon mead, I’ve got the inside scoop for you today. As an added bonus, Ken gives us a gander at the flavors of his childhood with a recipe for persimmon pudding.
Here it is….early fall in eastern NC. Fall is my absolute favorite time of year….chilly nights, comfortable days, leaves starting to turn to their glorious hues of yellow, orange, red….and time for the State Fair. When the first frosts begin to rest gently over the landscape, my thoughts turn to the bounty of the fall harvest and childhood memories of the season. Pumpkins, collard greens, salt-cured country ham (started last year), and one of the most delectable treats you have ever put in your mouth….persimmons. If you are lucky, you may even have a copy of “Granny Hinkle’s ‘ol fashioned persimmon pudding”….a rich, sweet, gooey, spicy desert.
Persimmons are almost a thing of the past. Finding wild persimmons is akin to knocking in a “hole-in-one” on a 500 yard Par 5 at theon a windy day. If you are lucky enough to spot a persimmon tree in the wild, don’t tell anyone about it and keep going back regularly after the first frost. Make friends with the landowner. Good wild persimmons will be almost mushy soft and sweet. Picked any earlier, and you mouth will turn inside out with the astringent, mouth-puckering sensation akin to dosing your mouth with a tablespoon of alum.
Unfortunately, I have not found any wild persimmons for years here in eastern NC. But a friend of mine gave me some Oriental persimmons from his father’s tree. Just before, you may notice some ornamental sized trees in yards in which people have hung miniature plastic pumpkins for Halloween decorations. Kinda’ like hanging plastic Easter eggs at Easter time. Look again!!!!! Those fake pumpkins may just very well be real Oriental persimmons ripening, awaiting someone to pick them and make some persimmon pudding….or some Persimmon Mead. Oriental persimmons are not astringent like their wild kin, but they are also not as flavorful…pound for pound, so you have to cook them down a bit more for the pudding. But, they are great for mead.
I am sharing this recipe for this Persimmon mead, because it is special….not because it has won several awards, but because of the people behind it. My friend Dale gave me the honey for this mead….eastern NC fall harvest wildflower honey. The persimmons came from his father’s tree, picked lovingly by all who attended Dale’s father’s funeral on that glorious fall day. I gave Dale a bomber to open up this fall.
Hallalujah Celebration Persimmon Mead
5 qts wildflower honey
4 gallons water
2-1/2 tsp yeast nutrient
Lalvin D-47 dry yeast (hydrate 15 minutes before pitching)
Filter the water, bring it to a boil, cut the heat and add the honey and yeast nutrient,stir, cover and let stand 20 minutes to pasteurize. Chill the must and pitch the yeast. Ferment in primary at 68 degrees F for one month.
Rack the mead and add 3 qts of Oriental persimmon pulp (pasteurized at 160 degrees F for 20 minutes…do not let the temp go higher or you may get pectin haze. I pasteurized and canned the fruit earlier.) Let the secondary fermentation go for 6 weeks, then rack the mead off the big pile of persimmon flesh in the bottom. You will lose at least a gallon. Add 2-1/2 tsp acid blend to enhance the acidity level and 1 tsp Sorbistat K to prevent further fermentation. 24 hours after the Sorbistat K, add 1-1/2 -2 cups of honey to sweeten the mead. Stir of swirl gently to dissolve the honey. Let the mead sit until it clears, racking several times. Bottle, put it away in a closet for 6 months. Enjoy!!
Mix 2-1/2 cups Oriental persimmon pulp, 1-3/4 cup whole milk (or half & half), 1 stick melted butter, 2-1/2 cups flour, 1-1/2 cups brown sugar, 4 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon (preferablyCassia cinnamon). Bake at 325 degrees F for 1-1/2-2 hours. Let it sit a while….have a good mead…and serve warm (not hot).