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I do not like persimmons. I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere. This limiting mindset tainted my perspective for decades. Persimmons are like mayonnaise or cilantro, with either enthusiastic supporters or rigid deniers. In order to slacken our grip on childhood food aversions that linger well into adulthood, an impactful rediscovery is necessary for a new, unobstructed point of view.
Hoshigaki, or Japanese dried persimmons, are preserved by using a labor-intensive method that dates back centuries. Each fruit is peeled, strung onto racks, massaged by hand every 3-5 days and left to dry in the sun (or near a sunny window) for several weeks. Ideally, the temperature should remain at just below 50 degrees F. If the atmosphere is too hot or humid, the fruit will mold. Over the course of several weeks, the fruit withers and the flavor intensifies. When the natural sugars accumulate on the surface in the form of a powdery white bloom, the hoshigaki is ready to eat.
The result of this gratifying task is a truly delectable, caramel-textured fruit full of concentrated, honeyed persimmon flavor with notes of ginger and cinnamon. One bite of this delicacy steeped in ancient tradition and I was no longer a non-believer. If you haven't seen it already, track down the California's Gold episode on Otow Orchard in Granite Bay, CA. This television series was hosted by the beloved and irreplaceable Huell Howser. If the Otow family's dedication to keeping this ancient art alive doesn't inspire you to try your hand at hoshigaki using your own backyard fruit, Huell's infectious enthusiasm certainly will.
Traditionally, hoshigaki is made using astringent persimmons like Hachiya, Honan or Chocolate. However, you can certainly make it with non-astringent persimmons like Fuyu. Just watch for mold and remove it with a pastry brush if you spot it. Some folks will brush high proof alcohol over the fruit to prevent mold from coming back. Remember that the desired white sugar bloom can appear similar to mold so be mindful of what you are removing. Experiment and have fun!