I had a luscious mango this week, a fat, buttery one so sweet and tender that I longed for more. Too bad. Mangoes and other summer fruits are on their way out. And fall fruits are reappearing, along with cooler weather.
Pomegranates have already arrived--they're being harvested in the San Joaquin Valley. And persimmons are on their way in, which inspires pleasant thoughts of persimmon pies, puddings, cookies and other autumn treats. The two varieties to look for are Hachiya, which is the baker's favorite, and Fuyu.
How do you tell the difference? The Hachiya persimmon is round and is used when soft. The Fuyu is flat, remains hard and is usually eaten out of hand rather than used in cooking.
The persimmon is a native American fruit, but the pomegranate has a broad background. One source says it originated in Persia. The Spanish name for this seedy fruit is granada, and the French call it grenade, a name that, for reasons of size and shape, is also applied to the small hand-thrown explosive device. (The fruit is explosive too, producing staining spurts of juice if you open it carelessly.) Grenadiers are literally soldiers who throw grenades. But in France, a grenadier is also a pomegranate tree. And you should have no trouble figuring out that grenadine, the sweet red syrup that flavors drinks, is made from pomegranate juice.
Another autumn fruit that is plentiful right now is the crab apple. Small and firm, it is too sour to eat raw but becomes quite palatable when baked with a roast and makes superb jelly.
Crab apples from British Columbia should be on hand in produce departments. And there's a good local crop at Oak Glen. Robie Robertson of Los Rios Rancho, 39610 Oak Glen Road, says he'll have enough to last through October. Varieties range in size from that of a large marble to a little bigger than a golf ball. Color varies from a yellowish hue to dark red, the deeper shades appearing in the later varieties. Los Rios is also selling crab apple jelly and sweet pickled crab apples, made from old family recipes.
D'Anjou pears from the Northwest are beginning to arrive, and the Bosc harvest is shifting to that area from California. Comice, Seckel and Red varieties are around, and Bartletts are still coming out of Lake County. Most of the pears grown in the United States are Bartletts, and California is the leading producer, harvesting the crop through October and occasionally into November.
A sliced pear, a wedge of cheese and a glass of Port is a lovely fall combination. And pears poached in red wine look nice on an autumn table. Combine 1 1/2 cups each of sugar and dry red wine, 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel in a large saucepan. Bring this to a boil and add four peeled whole pears (leave the stems on). Cover and simmer the pears, turning and basting them occasionally, until they are translucent and the syrup thickens, which will take about 30 minutes.
Pears are picked unripe because they do not mature well on the tree. Let them stand at room temperature until they yield to light pressure at the stem end, then use them at once or store them in the refrigerator.