~Hanging Hachiya persimmons to become hoshigaki, image found here~
Peeled persimmons, hanging by string...beautiful, don't you think?
Last weekend I posted a poem titled "Six Persimmons" by the poet Shin Yu Pai - and she left a kind comment on the post, saying: "..You are so lucky to have such delicious hoshigaki potential hanging from your tree branches."
I must confess - I had no idea what 'hoshigaki potential' referred to, much less 'delicious hoshigaki potential'...so of course I had to google it.
From the Slow Food USA website:
Hoshigaki are persimmons that are peeled and dried whole over a period of several weeks through a combination of hanging and delicate hand-massaging, until the sugars contained in the fruit form a delicate surface with a dusting that looks like frost. Unlike sliced dried fruit, which tend to be brittle and leathery, hoshigaki are succulently tender and moist, with concentrated persimmon flavor. The hoshi gaki method is traditional to Japan, and came to America with Japanese American farmers. Because they are so labor-intensive, hoshi gaki all but disappeared from commercial production.
To be eaten fresh, the Hachiya persimmon must be completely soft, otherwise it is unbearably astringent. For drying, however, the fruits are perfect when they are still firm like apples, which generally happens from the end of September to the middle of October. The riper they are, the more delicately they must be handled.
Making hoshigaki requires patience, careful monitoring, and a fair amount of dexterity. The process involves peeling the persimmon, and then hanging the fruit, several on a string or over a pole. After hanging the fruit for 3 to 7 days, the persimmon will form a skin that needs to be massaged in order to break up the hard inner pulp. The massage process goes on every 3 to 5 days for three to five weeks. By the end of this lengthy process, the sugars will come to the surface of the fruits, leaving a white bloom. The hoshi gaki are fully done when the pulp sets and you can no longer roll it.
Take a look at the drying persimmons over at Slow Food USA.
There is also a fascinating series of images - taking the fruit from the tree through the drying process - on the Otow Orchard website. Go to the bottom of the page, and you'll see the series of 25 images - it's a time-consuming and fascinating process. Their orchard looks just magical - they have a blog that is very much worth a visit.
I must confess that I'm fascinated by the thought of drying my persimmons. Next year, I think I'll definitely give it a try. I think my persimmon is Diospyros virginiana - the American or common persimmon - it is astringent (due to the tannins).
Suppose there is a bitter persimmon. By soaking it in a solution of lime or buckwheat chaff, or by exposing it to sunlight, we can make the persimmon sweet. There are not two persimmons, one bitter and the other sweet -- there is only the one. The bitter persimmon has not been sweetened with sugar; rather, the inherent bitterness of the persimmon has been drawn out and its inherent sweetness allowed to emerge. The catalyst, the intermediary that assisted the transformation, was the solution or the sunlight. T'ien-t'ai likened earthly desires to the bitter persimmon, enlightenment to the sweet persimmon, and the process whereby the sweetness was brought out to Buddhist practice.
I love how persimmons are often used to represent transformation in Buddhism - again, the painting 'Six Persimmons' often pops us - with the six persimmons representing different stages of enlightment.
~Annabelle Lee, chowing down on a persimmon~
This year I hadn't harvested the persimmons from my tree, I just enjoyed seeing them there, they're quite beautiful. I hadn't thought too much about eating them, or about making persimmon pudding or persimmon candy. The persimmons had just hung there, on the branches, through our unusually cold December and early January with several periods of extreme cold (or at least what seemed like extreme cold to this coastal South Carolinian...). They were frozen when I decided to try one last weekend - and I harvested the remaining two just in time, since a four-legged garden pest (the lovely and charming and fruit-loving Annabelle Lee) had already discovered that frozen persimmons were wonderfully sweet and had been harvesting them for the past week on her own (she's a very resourceful and determined English pointer). I cut them in two, and at the last minute decided to share and I gave the resourceful garden pest her last persimmon of the season - while I ate the other one. The flesh was beautiful, the sweetness amazing - and on a below-freezing morning, I feel in love with persimmons.
I can't wait until next season - nor can Annabelle.