Persimmon is a relatively difficult fruit to use fresh. The Western palate prefers it, with its fairly savoury and vegetal flavour, “blet”. Bletting is the process of letting the fruit overripen and ferment in its own skin, therefore transforming the sugars into almost a paste. This technique led to quince and other such pectin-laden fruits being cooked into paste to accompany cheese et cetera.
In finer dining establishments in the 1990s it was fairly common practice to serve a composed cheese course as part of a meal. I love the expression this brought to particular cheeses – showcasing their flavours and letting them be the hero ingredient. I find savoury fruits such as persimmon are particularly delicious with the minerality that comes through in goat’s milk cheeses. It also blurred the lines moving from savoury into sweet dishes, making the transition more subtle.
Ultimately this confiture can be used for many purposes, such as jam or paste. It’s the play between sweet and earthy I particularly like in this recipe. Persimmons really are a great snapshot of autumn as the cooler months equate to more time spent in the kitchen.
Persimmon and beetroot confiture
– 600g persimmon (slightly underripe)
– 400g golden beetroot
– pinch of saffron
– 60ml white wine
– 40ml white vinegar
– 500ml grapeseed oil
– 60g honey
– 60g of hard cheese per person (I used Annie Baxter goat’s cheese from Shaw River in south-west Victoria)
– 1 handful of watercress, or rocket, per person
Peel and slice the persimmon into rounds about three millimetres thick. Lay the slices on a rack and let dry in a controlled low-humidity environment for six to eight hours or until the sides have begun to slightly wrinkle. Peel the beetroot and, using a mandolin or meat slicer, slice into rounds about 1.5 to two millimetres thick. Set aside.
Line a heavy-based ovenproof pan with greaseproof paper. Alternate layers of beetroot then persimmon, lightly salting between each, until there are six layers. The size of pan is important here, as you want the three layers of persimmon to fit snugly against the beetroot.
In a separate small pot lightly toast the saffron dry – without oil – briefly over a low flame until it emits a gentle fragrance. Add the wine, then the vinegar and the rest of the wet ingredients and bring it all to the boil. Pour the wet ingredients over the persimmon and beetroot arrangement, then place another greaseproof paper circle over the top.
Use a plate or similar light weight that fits within the pot to press gently on the layers then place the pan into a 140ºC oven for about 3.5 hours (I like to finish the confiture on a higher heat/flame to caramelise the sugar a little). Let the layers cool to room temperature before removing the stack from the pan and placing it onto a plate or tray to be stored, covered, in the fridge. Excess oil and liquid can then be used as a dressing for leaves by simply adjusting the oil or the vinegar according to how it has balanced.
Slice a 50-gram portion per person to accompany a hard-style cheese (about 60 grams per person). Dress with a peppery leaf such as watercress or rocket.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 18, 2019 as "Persimmon and beetroot confiture". Subscribe here.