A New Years Sojourn

What's the perfect way to spend New Years Eve.? This dilemma always crops up every year at the end of the holiday season. When I was younger (a century, or two, ago) there was the business of staying up all night, parties to attend, etc... Nowadays, my favorite part of New Years is waking up on January 1st, turning on the television at 8 a.m. and watching the Tournament of Roses Parade. Still, on New Years Eve, putting the children to bed and getting some well deserved sleep myself doesn't feel particularly festive or celebratory. So, this year, we decided to hit the road and visit friends in Glen Ellen and Sebastapol.

I wish I had taken some photos for you of the misty hills and the leafless, moss-covered trees, but I was too busy being in the moment... looking out the windows of the car as we were driving along, enjoying the company of friends we don't see often enough and smelling the air of Sonoma County (it smells like wood-burning stoves, trees, damp earth and something else, indefinable...)

So, I didn't come home with photos of misty hills and leafless trees, but I managed to tuck some pretty good souvenirs among our luggage in the back of the car.

Our friends in Sebastapol have a hachiya persimmon tree. Now, in November I sang the praises of fuyu persimmons, but I have to admit, I haven't been a fan of hachiyas since my days at university when, feeling over-eager and impatient, I bit into hachiya persimmon which was not yet quite ripe. Taking a bite of a not-quite-ripe hachiya persimmon is a rather unforgettable experience, and not one I recommend in the least. Imagine, having an old, dusty sweat sock stuffed in your mouth. That's what taking a taste of an unripe hachiya is like (unripe hachiyas are unbelievably astringent.) But have you ever seen a hachiya persimmon tree in November or December? All the leaves fall off the tree and the bare branches remain festooned with bright orange fruit. It's remarkably beautiful.

So, when a box of the pretty, orange fruit was thrust into my arms, I good naturedly chirped, "Surely, I can find a good recipe for baking with these," and that's just what I did the minute I got home. I found a recipe...

Now, I have to admit, these cookies will not win any beauty contests, but they taste amazing. I highly recommend you get your hands on 3 hachiya persimmons and proceed as follows:

3 ripe hachiya persimmons, stripped of peel and mashed with a fork (approx. 1 cup)
2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
(OPTIONAL 1/2 tsp each, ground cinnamon, cloves & nutmeg)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C)

Whisk together flour, baking soda & salt (plus optional spices if you wish... I personally omit them because I want the flavor of the fruit to shine.)

Cream together sugar & butter then add the egg, vanilla & persimmon.

Combine wet & dry ingredients. Then stir in the nuts & raisins.

Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and drop heaping teaspoonfuls of batter 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake approx. 12 minutes (or until light brown around the edges) and cool on a rack.

Another souvenir we managed to find space for in the back of the car was some apple wood kindling for our fireplace. But until we get around to burning it, it will remind me of our New Years sojourn...it smells of trees, damp earth and something else, indefinable...

What's your favorite way to spend New Years Eve? However you celebrated the New Year, I hope you had a wonderful time and I wish you all the best in 2011...

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