I call it serendipitous when I saw persimmons hanging like on a clothes line at Folktale Winery in Carmel Valley last week. The timing was too coincidental as I had just been chatting with my friend Lakshmi a few days earlier about this drying technique, when she was sharing with me about a friend of hers who dried persimmons on a clothes line the Japanese way.
I had never heard of air drying persimmons on a clothes line!
It all sounded so fascinating when Lakshmi explained that in Japan the hachiya variety of persimmons are dried on a clothesline. Truthfully I had never heard of such a thing!
So imagine my delight when I actually saw persimmons hanging in this fashion at Focktale Winery in Carmel Valley! And that too a couple days after our conversation. Talk about coincidence!
We were on our way back from a fall weekend in Big Sur when we stopped by Folktale Winery in Carmel Valley for lunch. Here I am having a delicious pizza and salad and what do I see across the courtyard? Persimmons hanging as if from a clothesline!
At any other time, I would have thought that it was fall decoration, but having just learnt about this persimmon drying technique I was beyond thrilled to take pictures to share with you all!
What is Hoshigaki
For centuries, the Japanese have been drying persimmons in a traditional method called hoshigaki. At their most basic, hoshigaki are persimmons that are air dried – hashi meaning dry and kaki meaning persimmon.s The fruit are first peeled and then hung until they shrivel and a natural sugar coating forms on their surface.
These chewy, mildly sweet dried fruits are commonly enjoyed as a tea sweet, particularly with green tea.
Two major varieties of persimmons
There are two major types of persimmons commonly available in America: fuyu and hachiya. Fuyu persimmons are squat and round and can be eaten like an apple. They have a crisp waxy texture, and are sweet and crunchy.
For hoshigaki however you will need to use hachiya persimmons. These are oval in shape and pointed. Unripe hachiyas are firm and are not edible as they leave a residue in the mouth and make the mouth dry and the flesh is tannic and bitter. But as they ripen the flesh becomes gelatinous and mushy like custard.
How to dry persimmons the hoshigaki way
To make hoshigaki you want the unripe firm hachiya persimmons. Don’t worry about black marks on the skin of the fruit. This is caused by sunburn but does not affect the end product in this case.
First peel the fruit
Select fruit that has at least an inch of stem attached. If the flesh of the fruit is at all soft, do not try to use them for hoshigaki; instead, leave them on the counter on their shoulders and allow to ripen. When soft, the flesh can be enjoyed like pudding, or used in baked goods.
Then tie the persimmons and hang them from a clothesline
Tie twine around the stems of the persimmons, and hang them in a place with good airflow and humidity, like a garage or a basement. If possible, it’s also good that the fruit get some exposure to sun. Make sure there is space between the fruit. Traditionally, the persimmons are hung on two ends of the same piece of string and draped over a 2-inch piece of bamboo, usually in open air in a sheltered location.
Massage persimmons lightly every day and dry for 6 weeks
For the first week, do not touch the persimmons. When the slippery surfaces have become tacky and begun to firm, gently massage the persimmons for a few seconds at least once every day.
Be very careful when massaging the persimmons. When the flesh is at its softest, it may burst through the skin. If any persimmons develop mold on the exterior, discard them.
As the tannins in the fruit break down, the flesh will become soft and the fruit will become pliable, at first only near the surface, and eventually all the way to the core. The leathery surface will darken and turn brown.
After about a month to six weeks, the fruit should wither down, and a powdery white bloom will form on the surface. This is the natural sugars forming on the outside of the fruit, and an indication the hoshigaki is ready.
Note: If the sugar does not bloom within six weeks, but the fruit is dark and firm, your environment may not be humid enough. Try pulling the fruit down and putting them in an airtight container like a large mason jar, or a zip-top bag. The sugar should bloom within two to three days.
Cut into pieces and store to eat later.
Have hachiya persimmons that need to be consumed? Try drying the the hoshigaki way and enjoy the sweet fruit all year long.