Wednesday, July 13, 2011

#5. Persimmon Pudding (Recipes included)

I am something of an amateur foodie. It all started with a strange Food Network-obsessed stage I went through in the eighth grade. Before that time, I was content with frozen meals and thought of Taco Bell as exotic cuisine. When I discovered the possibility of food, it was like a whole new world was opened up to me. Beyond the incredible variety of flavors, I enjoy "traveling" through food and believe that one can learn much about a region through its dishes and food culture.

Corny I know, but I couldn't resist. This alternately makes me incredibly amazed and burst into laughter.

Why am I confiding this? Because it explains why I was so excited for the Taste section of the Indianapolis Monthly article. Eight of the 50 items are food, and persimmon pudding was my first selection. If I do say so myself, it was a good choice.

Persimmons
The article suggested trying the dish at the Spring Mill Inn in Mitchell. The Inn's website revealed that the Inn was located with the Spring Mill State Park. The Park had a variety of attractions, including cave boat tours and a Pioneer Village. I always enjoy the hilarity/education combo to be found at kitschy historical re-creation sites, so I easily justified the long drive. I also found that it was conveniently on the way to the French Lick Hotel (#14), so I combined the two for an enjoyable mini trip with my grandparents and cousin.

Spring Mill Inn
The lunch at the Spring Mill Inn was pretty underwhelming (i.e. lunch buffet filled with unhealthy, greasy comfort food) but the dessert made it worthwhile. Cornmeal pie and persimmon pudding are the specialities of the Inn, and rightfully so. The cornmeal gave the pie an unusual but nice texture and wasn't overbearingly sweet. My cousin was surprised that the persimmon pudding was nothing like the Jello pudding to which she was accustomed. Rather, its presentation was more along the lines of sticky toffee pudding and bread pudding.

Cornmeal pie
It is difficult to describe persimmon pudding if one is unfamiliar with the taste of persimmon, but I can best describe it as bread pudding meets spice cake. It came served with a generous helping of whipped cream, which added an extra boost of sugar to the otherwise sweet/tart flavor. I quickly devoured my serving. My grandmother, who was raised in rural southern Indiana, was well acquainted with persimmon pudding. Persimmon trees grow wild in the area and her uncle even had a few in his backyard. After seeing my affinity for it, she bought a tub of persimmon pulp and has promised to make it for the next family event. I can't wait!

Persimmon pudding
After the sugar rush subsided, we toured the Pioneer Village. It was really quaint, with a babbling stream and authentic 1800s buildings. The buildings had been well restored and were filled with informative representations of life during the pioneer era. Despite this, all I could think was "Thank God that I did not live during this time!!" Seriously, it looked miserable. Uncomfortable beds, stuffy clothing, practical isolation, and a never ending stream of chores made me appreciate modern conveniences so much. This was compounded by the July in Indiana heat/humidity double punch. The temperature was 96 degrees, but the heat index was a miserable 116. The Pioneer Village provided little shade and obviously no air conditioning, a deadly combination for my grandparents. Because of this, our visit to the Pioneer Village did not last long.

Grist mill at Pioneer Village
In search of a cooler area, we headed to the Twin Caves cave boat tour. For $3/person, the tour is a steal. It was my first tour of the kind, so I really enjoyed it. The cave is a cool 54 degrees year round, a welcome reprieve from the stifling summer heat.

Our tour boat: probably the reason for the $3 price
I saw a bat, blind cave fish, crawdads, stalactites, and forming flow rock. At one point, the guide turned the boat's headlights and her flashlight off, allowing us to experience the true darkness of the cave. Never before have I been in a place where the difference between open and closed eyes is non-existent. The cave was peaceful and I can now say that I have visited the Twilight Zone (a particular section of the cave).

Exiting the Twilight Zone
For those interested in making cornmeal pie and/or persimmon pudding at home, the Spring Mill State Park published the recipes in their quarter annual publication. Enjoy!

Persimmon Pudding
  • 2 cups persimmon pulp
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 stick butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan and put 1/2 stick of butter into the pan. melt the butter in the oven. Mix all dry ingredients together. In a large mixing bowl add persimmon pulp, eggs and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Mix well. Alternate milk and dry ingredients until thoroughly mixed. Pour over top of melted butter and bake approximately 35 to 40 minutes until done. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Corn Meal Pie
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn meal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • sliced almonds
  • shredded coconut
  • unbaked pie shell

2 comments:

  1. I am going to head to the cave for the next few days...Amazing year round the temperature is so cool...

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  2. This looks delicious, I will try it out. Thanks for the recipe.
    Hong Kong Compliance

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