Recipe: Sara Bir's Pawpaw Lassi

From Belt Publishing's new Pocket Pawpaw Cookbook

By Sara Bir

It's been a good summer in my world, even if the pawpaws in my woods are puny. I start paying close attention to them around this time of year, anticipating the hauls I might be toting home in the weeks to come, and what I'll make with them. Some years are good. Some are off the hook. This one seems… fair.

But that's where am, not where you might be. There’s a fighting chance that pawpaws grow near you, and yours might be in excellent shape: plump, ripe, and plentiful. If that's the case, I wrote a cookbook just for you: The Pocket Pawpaw Cookbook. It's got recipes, harvesting strategies, history, and reflections on the cultural and emotional significance of our largest native fruit.

This winter, I used all the frozen pawpaw pulp I had stockpiled to develop and test recipes like coconut-lime pawpaw paletas, green tomato and pawpaw chutney, and pawpaw chocolate chip tea cake. I’m fond of them all, but the pawpaw lassi will always be my go-to. It's easy, and it’s perhaps the best showcase for pawpaws in a year when your harvest is precious and small. 

Pawpaw Lassi
From The Pocket Pawpaw Cookbook, by Sara Bir

Makes about 2 ½ quarts, serving 2-4

You have worked hard for your pawpaws and deserve a refreshing reward. Here it is. This is thicker than an Indian lassi, more like a smoothie-lassi hybrid. The simple harmony of pawpaw and dairy is employed to full effect here. Instead of yogurt, I prefer thick and rich full-fat buttermilk. I’ve seen this in the store labeled as “country style” or “Bulgarian-style.” You can substitute plain yogurt (preferably full-fat).

1 cup pawpaw pulp
1 cup full-fat buttermilk
¼ cup cold water, plus more as needed
2-3 tsp. granulated sugar
Pinch ground mace, nutmeg, or cumin

Combine the pawpaw pulp, buttermilk, water, and 2 tsp. of the sugar in a bowl or large glass measuring cup and whisk until combined. (You can use a blender instead, if you want the texture to be totally smooth.)

Taste and add more sugar if needed. You’re aiming for this to be very balanced: sweet, tart, creamy, fruity, all that. If it’s too thick to be pourable, thin it out with a few tbsp. of water at a time.

Garnish with a sprinkling of mace, nutmeg, or (if you’re feeling edgy) cumin, and serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers for up to a day.

Sara Bir is the author of Tasting Ohio, The Pocket Pawpaw Cookbook, and the IACP award-winning The Fruit Forager’s Companion. She lives in Marietta, Ohio, where she gardens badly and forages often.