(Yields one 9-inch pie)
Euell Gibbons loved persimmons. In Stalking the Wild Asparagus, he referred to American persimmon as sugar-plums, acknowledging they are one of the finest tree fruits native to our country. In his book he included many recipes for these delightful fall fruits, such as Christmas pudding, persimmon molasses, beer, and vinegar. Gibbons even relished persimmon leaves, noting that tea made from them is high in vitamin C and has an invigorating flavor reminiscent of sassafras.
Of all Gibbons’s mouthwatering persimmon recipes, he held this one in greatest regard. “Perhaps the highest form of persimmon cookery,” Gibbons wrote, “is achieved in the Persimmon-Nut Chiffon Pie.” And here it is.
18 graham crackers
½ cup melted butter
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon unflavored gelatin
½ cup brown sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs, yolks and whites separated
⅔ cup whole milk
1 heaping cup persimmon pulp
¼ cup white granulated sugar
¼ cup chopped hickory nuts
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Pulverize the graham crackers with a rolling pin or a food processor, then combine with the butter, sugar, and gelatin. Mix ingredients well, then press evenly into a 9-inch pie plate. Place in preheated oven and bake for just 8 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
In a saucepan, combine the brown sugar, gelatin and salt. In a bowl, slightly beat the egg yolks and mix with the milk, then pour into the saucepan with the brown sugar mixture. Stir well. Gently heat the saucepan, stirring constantly, until the mixture just comes to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and stir in the persimmon pulp. Chill about 1 hour, or until mixture mounds slightly when spooned—don’t let it get too stiff.
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually add the white sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold the partly stiffened persimmon mixture and hickory nuts thoroughly into the beaten egg whites, then turn the whole filling into the pie crust. “Chill until firm,” Gibbons says, “and you will have a delectable dream of a pie, fluffy and light as a wisp of foam.”