While it’s true that summertime is prime time for produce, some particularly colorful fruits are only available in fall. Several of those are not as well known as warm-weather varieties, or at least they’re not commonly used in their whole form—instead, you find them as (usually sweetened) juices and fruit leathers. Time to get to know these fresh fruits!
Cranberries are only available fresh in fall, but the good news is that they freeze beautifully, so stock up! Toss them whole into muffin and pancake batters, add them to cakes and brownies, and include them in quick breads like pumpkin and zucchini. Cranberries are very low in sugar and very high in pectin, which means you can easily make them into a low-sugar jam. Barely cover them with water, then simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, using a potato masher to break them up once they’re soft. Stir in some orange peel for extra pectin and a burst of flavor and sweeten to taste with maple syrup. So simple! (Note that dried cranberries are always coated with sugar/syrup and that most cranberry juices are also sweetened.)
Persimmons come in two varieties: Hachiya and Fuyu. They’re both a bright orange color inside and out, but there’s a BIG difference between them, and that’s their respective levels of tannins. Hachiya persimmons are pointy and ovoid and contain very high levels of tannins; Fuyu persimmons are round and squat (they look like yellow beefsteak tomatoes) and have much lower levels of tannins. Tannins are mouth-puckeringly astringent and lessen in both Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons as the fruits ripen. This means that in order to enjoy a Hachiya, it needs to be very ripe—if it isn’t, your tongue will feel like it’s turning inside out. Fuyu persimmons are much less tannic and can be enjoyed before they’re fully ripe. If you’ve ever drunk plain black tea that had steeped for far too long, you know what excess tannins feel/taste like! In short, Fuyu persimmons give you much more wiggle room in terms of figuring out if they’re ripe enough to eat.
Once you find your very ripe Hachiya or medium-ripe-to-ripe Fuyu persimmon, you can treat it like an apple: cut it into slices to enjoy out of hand or add it to salads or savory dishes like sautéed chicken or pork. The skin is generally too tough to eat, so either nibble around it or trim it away, and also remove the hard seeds. (If you get a very ripe persimmon, the skin might be soft enough to eat.) You can also add persimmons to smoothies and on top of ice cream for an authentic autumn flavor.
Pomegranate seeds are a bit tricky to free from their shells, but they’re crunchy and tangy and well worth the effort to enjoy fresh. The least messy way to de-seed a pomegranate is to fill a large bowl with cool water, then cut the pomegranate in half and submerge the halves in the water. With the cut halves facing away from you, push on the skin (you’re turning them inside-out) with one hand as you run the fingers of your other hand through the seeds and surrounding mesh, freeing the seeds. This way, if you break any seeds (and you will!) and the dark red juice spurts out, it’ll go into the water instead of onto you or your counter/cutting board. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl while the lighter-weight mesh floats to the top, enabling you to scoop it away and claim your seeds.
You can stash fresh pomegranate seeds in the fridge for a week and use them as a garnish on salads and soups, stirred into cereals and pilafs, and on top of desserts. They also make a great snack—just eat them right out of the jar with a spoon. Or sprinkle them onto whipped cream along with some chopped nuts and serve them as a quick, low-sugar dessert!
For more ways to use cranberries this holiday season check out my post at https://sherylshenefelt.com/2018/11/19/dont-forget-ultimate-holiday-fruit/