05 October 2008

shake shake...thud thud

the hoosier hotcakes (mentioned in the previous post) perform a number at the farmer's market called "way down yonder in the pawpaw patch." ever since we moved to indiana, we have wondered about pawpaws. maggie, who teaches cosmo's music class, told us they were yummy, and one of the first solid foods she offered to her baby. she recently hooked us up with a friend who knows where to find them. they are a native fruit, they mostly grow wild, and in clumps (or patches) of trees in the woods. after trying a few from a vendor at the farmer's market, we were intrigued, and wanted to gather some ourselves. we met andy at the park, and followed him out to lake monroe, where we met another family, and headed into the woods. when we came upon the first trees, andy shook their slender trunks, and we heard a couple of thuds. cosmo helped us find the yellowish-green, mango-shaped fruits scattered on the forest floor. they stood out like sore thumbs in all that brown, and remained, for the most part, intact. they fall easily off the tree when they are ripe, so this is typically how one harvests pawpaws.

we took home a sack-full, but were unsure about what to do with them. a pawpaw is very much like a tropical fruit. it is something between a mango and a banana, in both texture, and flavor, with a slightly astringent edge to it, especially near the peel. the seeds remind me most of loquats, and you'll find several of them in each fruit. carl loves them raw. i am a bit less enthused, because i suspect they give me a tummy ache. we made some cookies from a recipe we found online. the night we made them, i thought they were delicious, and ate way too many. my stomach hurt later that night, so maybe the key here is moderation. andy had made a bunch of fruit leather out of them. i tried it, and liked it a lot, but i don't have a dehydrator, and though i had some success with peach leather this summer, i think it would be easier if made in a proper dehydrator. i recently tried to dry some tomatoes in our shed, but it hasn't been hot enough lately, and most of them developed spots of mold before they dried thoroughly.

while the cookies were pretty good, they didn't keep well, and it seems to us that pawpaws are best if you use them uncooked. carl wanted to try ice cream, so we borrowed shawna's ice cream maker and used a recipe we found online. you basically make a regular ice cream custard, as if you were just making vanilla, then before you freeze it you add some cold cream and the pawpaw pulp (which is just the fruit run through the food mill--rather awkwardly since the seeds are so large) and pour it into the ice cream maker.

the results were fantastic.

now we know what to do with pawpaws.

carl has also been really excited about persimmons, which grow wild around here as well. they are nothing like the enormous, bright orange fuji ones that you can sometimes find in grocery stores. these are small, round and taste as though the spices have already been added. seriously, they smell and taste of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. but they do have a bitter bite to them, around the skin, especially if they are not quite ripe.

last year we just ate a few off the tree across the street, and cosmo would eat them whole--seeds and all. we attempted to make a pudding, but we didn't have a food mill at that time, and i think too much of the astringent peel got into the pulp, and it made my mouth pucker. this year, with the food mill, and plenty of fruit from the neighborhood, and malke's backyard, there's no end to what we can do with persimmons. especially since we found the book fading feast, which dedicates a chapter to the discussion of the town of gnaw bone, indiana, and the persimmon treats found there (we recently visited, and tried the cake-like pudding from the sorghum mill trading post). the book features several persimmon recipes, including an incredible tea cake that carl made last week. he is presently baking a second loaf, the aroma is wafting in from the kitchen.
gotta run, i hear the oven door opening.

indiana autumn delight: persimmon tea cake with pawpaw ice cream.


Actchy said...

I am enthralled by these "what grows in IN" posts, as I spent four years in Northern Indiana, and found that the only things that grew near my university were chain restaurants. Further, the air was more often scented by the nearby ethanol plant than by ripe harvest. Of course, in this way, it seems Northern/Southern IN are split similarly as those same regions of NJ.

kate smudges said...

The teacake looks delicious with the pawpaw ice cream. Now I know what pawpaws are!

It was fun catching up on your blog. I took a break from blogging and have been slow getting back to it. Cosmos has grown!