This weekend, I successfully completed my shopping for Thanksgiving dinner for one. I find shopping stressful during Covid, like most people I imagine. (Go here for ideas on shopping less often during quarantine.)
Because I can’t find loose cranberries anywhere, I buy dried ones to make a festive pear-cranberry chutney for Thanksgiving dinner. At the farmers’ market, as I walked past piles of persimmons, thinking about how I’d prefer fresh cranberries over dried, it dawned on me—I can make a festive, scrumptious and seasonal chutney with fresh persimmons. That meant one fewer thing to buy—and less time to spend—inside the bulk store. (I feel safer shopping outside at the farmers’ market.) Why had I not thought of this until now?
Fuyu of Hachiya persimmons?
Most people (as in my Instagram audience that responded to a poll) prefer the crunchier Fuyu persimmon over the astringent Hachiya, which you must not eat until it fully ripens unless you enjoy having your mouth completely dry out just when you need to spit out what you’ve put in there.
But wait until Hachiyas have fully ripened, and they taste incredibly sweet and rich and decadent. At this point, they will seem almost rotten—squishy and shriveled, with not one spot of the hardness that characterizes them when first picked. Do not eat them a moment before this.
I bought both types but will save the Hachiya persimmons until they reach that magical state, at which point I will eat them raw and unadorned. (I eat Fuyus like apples and either bite right in or slice them into wedges.)
When I began prepping this, I wondered what to use to kickstart the fermentation. It will ferment without a starter—you can’t stop fresh produce from fermenting—but it will take a little longer without one. I hadn’t bought a jalapeño at the market but I do have a jar of jalapeños fermenting on the counter. By mixing in some of those, I could add both heat and live cultures with one ingredient.
Then I had an epiphany—why not add preserved lemons as well? That adds more good microbes plus complex flavor and salt. Besides, I have more preserved lemons than fresh lemons on hand at the moment. I added both the preserved lemons and brine, tasted and tweaked and wondered why I had never thought to do this before either.
Cultured Persimmon Chutney
- 3 cups persimmons, diced about 5 Fuyus or 2 Hachiyas
- 1 cup apple, diced
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely minced
- ¼ cup minced cilantro (optional)
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 2 quarters preserved lemon, pulp and rind, diced (optional)
- ¼ cup preserved lemon brine or other starter, see note
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- salt to taste see note
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
- Pack the chutney into clean glass jars. If the mixture doesn't contain enough liquid to completely cover the fruit and vegetables, pour in a small amount of water.
- Replace the lids and set the jars on plates to catch any drips that will likely gurgle out of your live food. Keep the jars at room temperature and burp (i.e. open) them daily to release built-up carbon dioxide.
- Taste your chutney after two days. It should taste tangy and slightly effervescent and magical. When you like the flavor, transfer it to the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation.
- If desired, strain out some of the liquid to thicken this chutney before serving. Reserve the liquid to kickstart a new batch of chutney or another ferment.