Drinks made from wild edibles: an awesome idea for a book! That's why we were so psyched to get our copy of Emily Han's new book, Wild Drinks and Cocktails: Handcrafted Squashes, Shrubs, Switchels, Tonics, and Infusions to Mix at Home.
My favorite wild fruit, persimmons, were begging to be plundered from our trees as I flipped through Wild Drinks and Cocktails for the first time, so persimmon punch, or sujeonggwa--a traditional spiced Korean drink, seemed like a fitting first recipe to break-in the new book.
writes, "Redolent of cinnamon and ginger and garnished with pine nuts, it's often served chilled as a dessert or digestif, and is enjoyed on special occasions such as New Year's Day. Although this punch traditionally calls for dried Hachiya persimmons, you can also use dried wild American persimmons."
American persimmons are what we have and, in my opinion, they're a lot tastier, albeit much smaller, than their Asian counterparts. Since they're so much smaller, they tend to linger on the tree long after the leaves have blown away, naturally drying in the fall wind without spoiling. It's not uncommon to find them holding fast to the bare branches, shriveled like prunes, well into winter. So we left a few fruits out in the elements, waiting another several weeks to harvest for our punch--they weren't completely dry yet, but we went for it, anyway. You could, of course, expedite the process (with more predictable results) with a food dryer or oven. The recipe calls for six persimmons, but since we were using the smaller wild variety, we ended up using about twice as many. And though it's not New Year's Day yet, any occasion is excuse enough to enjoy wild persimmons.
This punch is traditionally served cold but it's also great hot. Either way, the cinnamon and ginger make it a warming treat on a chilly evening, while the persimmon lends a familiar sweetness that will forever taste like fall to me. I could see persimmon punch becoming an annual ritual and I'm really looking forward to working our way through the rest of the book!
Yield: 6 Servings
2 ounces (56 g) peeled and thinly sliced ginger
4 (3-inch, or 7.5-cm) cinnamon sticks
2 quarts (1880 ml) water
1⁄2 cup brown sugar (115 g) or honey (170 g)
6 whole dried persimmons
1 tablespoon (9 g) pine nuts
Combine the ginger, cinnamon sticks, and water in a large saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a container; discard the solids.
Stir in the sugar.
Remove and discard the stems of the persimmons and add the persimmons to the liquid.
Let cool to room temperature.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
Serve chilled in a tea cup or an Asian-style tea bowl with a persimmon in each cup. Garnish with pine nuts.
Reprinted with permission from Wild Drinks & Cocktails by Emily Han (Fair Winds Press, 2015)