Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hoshigaki - Japanese Dried Persimmons

In November, I attended a marvelous class in Santa Barbara on drying whole Hachiya persimmons in the traditional Japanese style.  Hoshigaki are somewhat of a delicacy; and making them involves weeks of air drying and periodic hand massaging to transform the astringent fruit into a sweet treat with a smooth and creamy interior and a flat, oblong shape.  At the end of the drying process, sugars from the inside of the fruit will come to the surface, leaving a sweet, white, powdery bloom.

Our teacher, Laurence Hauben, has been teaching the hoshigaki method for years.  She started by demonstrating the peeling, stringing, and hanging techniques.  Then we practiced carefully removing the peel, leaving the stem and a piece of the calyx about the size of a quarter.  We paired up fruit by weight and and tied each to opposite ends of a string.  Then we hung the peeled persimmon pairs over bamboo rods placed next to a sunny window where they would spend the next few weeks drying.

Laurence then demonstrated how to massage the drying fruit to produce a soft and smooth pulp.  After the fruit hangs for about a week, a thin outer skin forms.  From this point forward, the fruit is gently massaged every two to three days in order to keep the interior soft and to flatten out the fruit.  Depending on the drying conditions, it can take up to four weeks or longer for the persimmons to become hoshigaki.

The best part of this class was that Laurence sent us home with a full case of persimmons and a bamboo rod so there was no excuse to delay getting started on our own hoshigaki.  As soon as I got home, I peeled, strung, and hung my fruit.

Here's what they looked like the next morning when there was enough light to take a photo.

After about a week, they looked like this.

After about three weeks of drying and two weeks of massaging they looked this this.

It took just a little more time for the sugary bloom to appear on the surface, and they were done.

Making hoshigaki was great fun.  Eating one with a cup of green tea is even better.  The fresh Hachiya persimmon season is over now, but you can try this next year.  I know I'll be making hoshigaki again next fall.



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