How to Make Hoshigaki
The first time I tasted a Japanese dried persimmon, I couldn't get over its incredible flavor, texture and scent. The whole experience of eating just once slice felt like a meditation. Once I found out how they were made, I was immediately intimidated and thought making hoshigaki would be something I'd admire, but never do.
But here I am, writing about how to make these little crystalline delights since, thankfully, I got over my fear and decided to give hoshigaki making a try. Believe me, it is well worth the effort.
M A T E R I A L S
A wooden dowel or pole to tie the persimmons to
Cotton kitchen string
A good pairing knife
We have a beautiful hachiya persimmon tree in the orchard where we live, so I harvested 13 (one for each full moon) and began cleaning them up in the kitchen. You'll want to harvest them with the stem so you have something to tie the string to so they will hang nicely. Cut each of the stems into a "T" shape and set aside.
Remove the leaves if you'd like a cleaner look and begin removing the skin. Here's how the Bar Tartine cookbook (a great reference), recommends this process: "With a pairing knife, carefully trim the peel from the top of each by slicing from the outside of the fruit toward the stem and turning the fruit in a circle to score the entire top. Cut a slit in the loose ring, and pull it from the fruits leaving the intact skin."
Next, you can peel the fruit. This doesn't need to be fancy, though I'm sure there are other guides to perfect hoshigaki peeling. Peel on a diagonal or however you can, without nicking yourself with the pairing knife. Once the fruit is peeled, tie a piece of the kitchen string to the stem then tie on to the wooden pole to hang.
Hang to dry in a cool place where they won't be disturbed. Our house has a bit more moisture so I would even recommend hanging them outside to dry for the day, if you can. Once the skins start to dry out after 3-5 days, that's when you can start gently massaging the skins to help remove any air pockets that might have formed and to help bring out the sugars to coat the surface. They should look frosted with sugar. Do this once a day over the next 3-4 weeks, or until as the Bar Tartine cookbook says, "...until they feel like a leather wallet full of cash."
Once they're dried, remove the persimmons from their strings and place on a cutting board. Use a rolling pin to gently flatten and remove any air pockets before storing in a air tight container.
Enjoy sliced after dinner with friends accompanied by a pot of tea.
N O T E S
Unfortunately, my first try at making hoshigaki at home was a total fail. Partly because I went on vacation for a week just after I hung them up to dry. Note to self, don't leave the hoshigaki unattended, they need your watchful eye and care. Even though I was disappointed that I had to start over, the process of making them is quite enjoyable and meditative.
These persimmons taught me that I can try something new, even if it seems intimidating. It's okay to mess up and start over. No matter what, trying and learning is what being in the kitchen is all about. I look forward to making hoshigaki a new autumn ritual for years to come and hope you feel encouraged to give this a try!
MORE INFO on hoshigaki making...