This email is from a previous fall, long before the pandemic. We are just days or weeks away from the persimmons reaching enough ripeness for drying or eating.
It is a great time of the year. We have the change in color, the Fall sports, arrival of fall and winter crops, and hopefully soon, a Covid-19 vaccine.
Fall means that persimmon season has arrived. For us, that means drying or dehydrating the Hachiya persimmon, later adding the Fuyu persimmon to the drying process.
Slow food USA describes the process quite well:
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.
Yes, it is labor intensive. Here is what I do to make the final product:
1) pick the Hachiya persimmon
2) clean and remove leafy material around the stem.
3) leave “T” shaped stem for hanging outside by string, or)
4) remove stem if dehydrating in a machine (my preferred method)
5) peel completely
6) place in dehydrator until brown and dry or)
7) tie with string and hang on laundry rack to air dry. This method requires bringing them inside each night, and massaging gently once they start turning color and harden a little (about a week). We still use this method out on the family farm.
This is the ideal result:
Hoshigaki is considered an art. Hoshi means dried, and gaki means kaki, the Japanese word for persimmon. Harvest season begins in October, and typically ends in January. The Fuyu (apple like in appearance) can be harvested well into the New Year, and either eaten like an apple or sliced and dried. The over ripe or soft Hachiya can be used for baking.
Fresh Fuyu and Hachiya persimmon can sell for as much as $10 a pound for premium fruit. A one pound bag of dried Hachiya sells for $40 to $47 a pound. We are also experimenting with another version that is dried with two walnut halves inside. This is reminiscent of an Armenian snack, called rojik. There is probably no better gift (omiyagi) to give when visiting someone’s home. It would compare favorably with abalone, silk kimono, or traditional wood cut sculptures. Be a hero!
Needless to say, the either process is labor intensive. Using the dehydrator, I will probably not massage the persimmons each night. The first batch of the year took on average, 5 to 7 days to dry. One website says: “if you follow the method closely, you will achieve a rewarding product that is succulent, very handsome, and makes wonderful Holiday gifts.”
Further: “Hoshigaki is a prized traditional gift, not typically used as an ingredient but enjoyed on its own. Making Hoshigaki is an art, like winemaking. There are many different styles and techniques.”
I promise not to charge you $40+ a pound, but will offer a free taste to any and all who wish to try this great, unknown delicacy.