Friday, September 26, 2008

Way down yonder in the paw paw patch redeux

The paw paws are ripe. Our friends’ woods are yielding sticky messes of them now. You shake the trees, they fall from the sky and if you’re lucky they don’t split as they hit you or the ground. Ones picked off the trees are just a tad under ripe, ones that have been on the ground a while are often suspect. Ugly things, greenish brown and splotchy and the point between ripe and spoiled is a fine one. A perfect paw paw should be firm but not hard, give to pressure yet not be mushy and have a heady fragrance. In theory, you are supposed to be able to cut open the fruit and scoop out the flesh. However, like my other favorite forest-gathered treat, the persimmon, paw paws have many seeds and the flesh tends to cling. So scoop if you want, but the best way to get all the pulp off the seeds is with your fingers. Once all the work is done, though, the reward is sweet. The flesh is custard yellow, soft and distinctly tropical. Imagine mango mixed with a little banana, cream and just a hint of pineapple. It’s creamy, rich and leaves a sparkly feel in your mouth. While there are an increasing number of paw paw recipes out there, they are perhaps best eaten fresh to savor a flavor like no other. If you have too many, the seeded flesh can be frozen. Or better yet, live on the wild side and make some paw paw ice cream. Mmmmmmm.

Paw Paw Ice Cream
3 cups whole milk
3 cups cream or half-and-half
3 cups granulated sugar
3 lemons, juiced
3 oranges, juiced
2 cups mashed paw paws

Mix together milk, cream and sugar. Place ingredients in ice cream freezer and turn until mushy. Add the juice of lemons and oranges and mashed paw paws. Turn freezer until frozen, then let stand one hour and pack freezer. Enjoy!

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