Hoshigaki – a first attempt at an ancient process

Some time at the end of November, my friend Kate organized a Hoshigaki workshop, led by farmer and foodie Evan Gregoire of The Portland Seed House. Hoshigaki is the delicious end result of a Japanese technique of air-drying and gently massaging peeled Hachiya persimmons, until the sugars rise to the surface like a light frost. If you have ever tasted a fresh Hachiya persimmon, you might recall that it’s so astringent, the inside of your mouth promptly shrivels up, as if you had licked clean a blackboard full of chalky scribbles. Gah! Turning this into something delightful sounded intriguing, so of course I went.

Fruits and paring knives were distributed. It’s good to have a little stem left on each fruit. To make tying them up easier, we created a little “neck” around the leafy top. Then we carefully peeled the persimmons, aiming for as smooth a surface as possible. The less ridges, the better.

Okay, there are ridges. Obviously, one could file away at this all day and still have ridges. It’s tricky making it smooth, and still have some fruit left, so I just tried to take the peel off as thinly as possible. A smooth surface makes for better sugar bloom later, as it dries.

Here’s Kate, holding up her peeled marvels for approval.

Here is Evan, describing the fineries of this time-tested massaging technique.

 

He brought samples reflecting the various stages of done-ness for us to see. Note how much the fruit shrinks over the course of a few weeks.

And, of course there were tasters… There is something very fungus-like about the appearance of these slices, but the flavor is sweet and fruity, and the consistency chewy. It’s very tasty!

Here are my four, ready for the transport home. The apple like fruits on the left are quince, brought by Kate. They are marvelously fragrant, and can perfume an entire room. They are edible, and have plenty of culinary uses, but that’s an exercise for another day. Amazing scent, though – I couldn’t stop sniffing mine.

Here is the cheat sheet Evan handed out. It tells you exactly what to do, and when. Sometimes mold can develop on the fruits as they hang. One precautionary act is to dip them in boiling water for a few seconds before hanging…

… so when I got home, I did just that.

The ideal place to hang your future Hoshigaki is in a bright spot with good air circulation. A south- or west facing window would be ideal. Unfortunately, the only south-facing windows in our house are in the kids’ rooms. I didn’t think they would agree to host my fruity decorations, so I improvised and hung them over the grow-lights in the attic, that keep some of my plants from perishing during winter.

I thought they looked rather cool, suspended on those cotton strings!

The first week of drying went by. Then I started noticing a bluish hue developing on a couple of the persimmons. It looked like the beginnings of that dreaded mold. After almost two weeks, I heard a ‘SPLAT!!!’ and found the two on the floor. By now, the mold spots were glaring, so I wasn’t entirely surprised to see their demise. I fed the compost bucket with those, and set my hopes on the remaining two. It’s funny, when you first start massaging the fruits, it feels like the skin is loose around an ever-shrinking ball. A few weeks later, the skin is a lot denser, and the ball has disappeared. Instead, the entire fruit feels uniformly pliable.

These are the two survivors. Kate said she had about 50% success rate with hers as well, so I didn’t feel  too bad about losing half of mine.

It’s funny how much they resemble morels, isn’t it? To be honest, I almost forgot about them for a week or two, so I bet I didn’t massage them as much as I should have. I expected there to be more sugar frosting on the outside, but in retrospect, I bet that might have to do with the level of attention paid to them in the weeks prior. Oh well, I’ll pay better attention next time.

When I sliced it, I saw the sugar! It seems it hadn’t quite reached the outer surface. Instead, it’s gathered just below the new skin. I don’t really care, as long as I can taste it. And, I can tell you – it was VERY tasty. In fact, so much so, that I AM a little bummed the other two got moldy. The first of my successful ones disappeared quickly, so now I only have one left. You can either eat them by themselves or – as I found out – they are also very good accompanied by aged cheese. Super yummy!

Of course I had to hold it up to the light, and check the color. What a fabulous amber glow, wouldn’t you agree?

 

 

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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19 Responses to Hoshigaki – a first attempt at an ancient process

  1. Congratulations on your perseverance

  2. bergstromskan says:

    When I was younger, I would enjoy trying something like that, so I can understand your enthusiasm Anna. And it lights up a sense joy, reading about it-but doing it??? Nja. My kitchen window would be perfect…………

  3. Lois says:

    How fun to re-live the class. I had 100% success rate, but I did something slightly uncommon: I had previously tried to make homemade Limoncello and used ridiculously high proof alcohol rather than regular vodka. What I ended up with gives me an instant hangover, so it’s just been hanging out in our liquor cabinet. I sterilized my persimmons in the hi-test Limoncello and a few weeks later, voila!

    • annamadeit says:

      Lois – that is brilliant! I will definitely store that trick away for next year… I’m sorry your Limoncello gives you headaches, but I’m glad you found a better use for it. Hearing about it made me think that maybe I should sacrifice my last Hoshigaki by slicing it up and soaking it in vodka for a few weeks. The color is so beautiful – it would be cool if I could both flavor and color vodka with it. Hmmm… I think I will try that. Stand by…

  4. What fun! I’m glad you got something for your efforts.

  5. Kris P says:

    Very cool! I’m bookmarking this post for future reference. I have 2 persimmon trees (one of which is a Hachiya) and I’ve always been a bit wary of the fruit. Of course, doing something with it means that I have to out-smart the raccoons and squirrels, neither of which seems to mind the astringency of the fruit.

    • annamadeit says:

      Oh, and entire tree at your disposal… That’s wonderful! I’m confident you can wrangle at least a few out of the greedy paws of the critters – I’ll be rooting for you! When you do try this, be sure to follow Lois’s trick (in the comments). I know both Kate and I only managed to save half of our attempts. That alcohol treatment truly seemed to do the trick. And as I said to Loree – it’s well worth the effort. Good luck, and please be sure to post about it! 🙂

  6. tonytomeo says:

    Hachiya are not at all easy to work with! They are so squishy when ripe. They are rare here because most people prefer the firmer Fuyu and other smaller varieties. They dry well I suppose. I prefer the Hachiya as fruit pudding! They are Rad. My article ‘The Physics of Fruit’ was about a Hachiya persimmon. . . sort of.

    • annamadeit says:

      I confess – I am a complete Persimmon ignorati. Based on the comments here and on Facebook, I have come to understand that there are a lot more to choose from than just Hachiya and Fuyu. I have a l-o-n-g way to go before I can speak even halfway confidently about Persimmons. I’ll check out your article!

      • tonytomeo says:

        Fuyu is certainly the most popular. Hachiya, which is my favorite, is the second more popular, but is quite rare nonetheless. Most were grown only as pollinators for Fuyu because some experts believe that the fruit is better with a pollinator. One of my clients had a Fuyu tree with a branch of Hachiya grafted to it for pollination. Chocolate persimmon is quite rare, but there are a few of them around. Some of the kids I grew up with liked them because they were more like what was available in Asian markets back then. (I am still not clear if persimmons grew in Vietnam or were imported from farther north.) The small American persimmon is completely different. It is not nearly as sweet, and has big seeds in it. I happen to like it, but it is nothing like Japanese persimmons.

  7. Anne Jones says:

    Anna – my son’s best friend’s mother is Japanese American. She always dries her persimmons (Fuyu) this way but massages them almost daily. They are delicious but pretty labor intensive. I have never tried it. The squirrels seem to clean out the tree before I can get to them. I have access to a Hachiya tree and like to eat them fresh. If you wait until they are so soft you think they’re rotting then they are like eating candy.

    • annamadeit says:

      You are the second person today who said she loses her fruits to squirrels. What a shame! Interesting that the Hachiyas turn sweet when borderline over-ripe – I had no idea. So much to learn about these fruits… Can’t wait to try this again!

  8. Peter Herpst says:

    I love eating persimmons out of hand and usually get quite a few from my tree but have never tried drying them. Fuyu is far less astringent even when firm. Anne is right about Hachiyas being very sweet once they start to get a little mushy, Congratulations on your success with this fun process.

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Peter! Next year, I’ll be on the lookout for a ripe Hachiya. I want to experience that chemical transformation in person. Holy moly – at the workshop, I took a tiny little bite out of a peel, and my mouth was instantly numbed. I can’t even imagine such a complete metamorphosis…

  9. Lori says:

    OMG, I just had to comment on this post (I just found you via Loree’s post– love your lanterns!), because I just got a Hachiya persimmon tree for the sole purpose of trying this. I’m really encouraged by your results, despite the 50% success rate. Do they recommend keeping the fruits above or below a certain temp when drying? I’m assuming the mold is above 50F?

    • annamadeit says:

      Hi Lori – thanks for the heads-up about Loree’s post. It was fun to see!

      I think the most important part is light and air circulation. I dipped mine in boiling water, but Lois, who had a 100% success rate dipped hers in alcohol. Whenever I try this again, I will be sure to do that too. Good luck with your Hachiya, and thanks for stopping by!

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