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Beer and Persimmons


If you can measure water, you can make your own beer, either lager or dark, using a kit imported from England.

A product of Brewking Ltd. of Brackley, England, the kit consists of a burlap sack that contains a double-laminated plastic bag to hold the beer. There's an opening at the top to pour in the water and a spigot at the bottom to tap the contents, which emerge with a nice foamy head. The label has instructions on the back and a packet of yeast attached. All the beer maker need do is provide the water and a storage spot.

During three weeks of standing time, the water and yeast blend with the brewer's malt, hops and sugars already in the bag to produce a sparkling brew. If the beer is allowed to stand longer, the flavor will be richer. And if it's not all consumed at once, there's no cause to worry. The beer can stay in the sack up to six months without a loss in quality.

The sack yields the equivalent of 33 1/3 (12-ounce) cans of beer. (The label says the yield is 20 pints, but those are 20-ounce British pints.) The price, $39.95, figures out to more per can than domestic beer. But what you're getting is genuine British pub-style beer, points out Sherman Hauser of Santa Cruz, the distributor.

Available only recently, the product is catching on. Three Broadway stores--Brea, South Coast Plaza and Century City--are stocking it. It is also available at the Wrapper in South Coast Plaza and Crystal Court and at Ye Olde Kings Head Shoppe in Santa Monica. Or you can order the sack directly from the distributor by calling (800) 635-6779.

Incidentally, Ye Olde Kings Head has just opened its shop, which will stock only British-made products, among them chinaware, pub paraphernalia, clothing and food specialties. The shop is also carrying the prestigious Duchess of Devonshire line of fancy foods. These are the same products that are sold at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, the ancestral home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The gift line includes English biscuits (which we would call crackers), cookies, mustards, teas, chutneys, jams, jellies and preserves--such as Seville orange marmalade with whiskey and black cherry preserves with cherry brandy.

Ye Olde Kings Head Shoppe, 132 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica. Hours are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Call (213) 394-8765 for further information.

The fuyu persimmon is small, squat and crisp like an apple. Sweet rather than astringent, it is popular with Asians, especially the Japanese. You'll find plenty of fuyus in Japanese markets right now because the harvest is in full swing.

What few know is that this firm-fleshed fruit can be used in baking just like the more familiar pointy-ended hachiya persimmon, which is soft and pulpy when ripe. This information comes from Lee Bathgate, who married into a fuyu- growing family. The five-acre Bathgate farm in San Juan Capistrano has been producing the fruit for more than 50 years.

Bathgate makes persimmon pudding with fuyus and suggests using them in any recipe that requires the usual persimmon. However, the fruit must be over-ripe and soft if destined for pudding, cake, bread or cookies. To hasten the softening, Bathgate suggests placing the fruit in the refrigerator. When making a pudding, she pulps the fuyus in the blender and adds a teaspoon of soda to one cup of pulp. This thickens the pulp to the proper consistency for the dessert.

Crisp fuyus have plenty of uses too. Bathgate adds them to apples for a pie, uses equal parts apple and fuyu in Waldorf salad and cuts them into thin slices for a mixed-fruit salad. They make a pretty garnish for holiday dishes because, when fully ripe, the fruit is bright orange to red-orange. There will be plenty of time to experiment with fuyus ; the fruit will be around into December.

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