Photo by Pat Brodie
I thought I would share an interesting project I have underway right now. First, a bit of history. My parents have a Hachiya persimmon tree and spend quite a bit of time each fall picking and delivering the crop to friends, neighbors, and even a couple markets. This is a long tradition for my mom, as she helped my grandparents do the same for many years (my parents now live in my grandparents' house, so it is the same tree).
Last year, my mom's friend Janice wanted to try making dried persimmons the traditional Japanese way, so she collected some from my parents. Japanese dried persimmons are called "hoshigaki" (hoshi = dried, kaki = persimmon, the k changes to g to form one word). When I got my hands on some of Janice's last year, I was hooked! They are wonderfully chewy and dense (more so than dried apricots), and the persimmon flavor is intensified and sweetened. So this year when I heard she was going to be doing it again, I said I wanted to learn how. There are now a handful of us with hoshigaki "in progress."
Here's the process. Hachiya persimmons are picked before they're ripe...
Chief Picker (dad). Photo by Janice Cook Knight.
Mom, two other hoshigaki converts Kim and Pat, and our mentor Janice.
The persimmons are peeled, tied by the remaining stems on each end of a string, and hung over a bamboo pole...
Photos by Pat Brodie
After 7-10 days a skin forms. That's when the massaging begins in order to break down the pulp inside. This continues every 3-5 days.
Eventually, the natural sugars come to the surface of the skin and the pulp sets. We're not there yet...
I have to admit to being spoiled a bit... Janice started the process for me. She did the peeling, hanging, and initial massaging and then my parents brought my persimmons when they came to visit for Thanksgiving. (I didn't realize how beautiful they would be in the initial stage, so I was glad to receive photos.) Mom passed along the massaging technique and they have continued to get regular massages. If only I were so lucky! As you can see, they have taken up residence in the shower of our extra bathroom where they can dry in peace.
There is, of course, much more to the history and tradition of hoshigaki. I've done a bit of poking around. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program at UC Davis has posted online a very informative paper called "Hoshigaki: Preserving the Art of Japanese Hand Dried Persimmons" (clicking on the title will open the PDF). There are a few people in California carrying on the tradition. Here are some links for those of you who would like to see and know more:
Otow Orchard - scroll down to watch the beautiful slideshow of the process, then click on "What's New" to read the blog and especially to see photos of the orchard in snow (be sure to scroll down)
California Country article about Otow Orchard's hoshigaki
Penryn Orchard Specialties
instructables.com "how to" with photos