When one of your best friends since high school turns fifty - and there's a hoshigaki workshop at a local farm on her birthday weekend - you know exactly how you are going to celebrate. Okay, she isn't technically a high school friend, but she's married to a high school friend and quickly became one of us as soon as we met her!
Beware: When you spend time with friends from high school, sometimes it's as if all those years in between vanish. We were listening to 80s hits in the car on the way to the farm and our jokes were pretty juvenile...lots about balls and, well, I'll just leave this one here from our stop at a succulent garden shop on the way home.
Three of us were independently taking photos of these while the fourth told us 'dirty old ladies' to knock it off. Then we posed for a group photo and threatened to gift these to each other for Christmas.
Okay, enough of our antics and back to these Japanese balls: hoskigaki. Hoskigaki are dried, preserved Hachiya persimmons. I have made them before, but it was nice to actually have someone who knows what they are doing show me!
Last Christmas, my 'persimmon gallows' disturbed D. I'm not sure why, but he said, "This could go very, very wrong...it's always an adventure when you live with a Kitchen Witch." Truer words were never spoken! But they turned out pretty well...
Still, it was great to have Penny Ellis of Community Cultural Tours show us the ropes. And it's even better that the persimmons were grown right there at Thomas Farm where we were lunching and learning.
There are really only two main kinds of persimmons that I see in the markets here - fuyu and hachiya. Fuyu are flat and eaten while they are firm; I usually just peel and slice. Hachiya are elongated and can only be eaten when they are ripe, that is to say mushy like a custard or jam. If you ever try to eat a hachiya while still firm, it's an experience you won't soon forget.
What you need...
- hachiya persimmons
- organic cotton twine, paring knife, scissors
Step One: Select your hachiya. They should be firm. If they are already starting to soften, pick a different one. Ideally, they should have a t-shaped stem still attached. Give the persimmons a gentle wipe.
Step Two: Trim the calyx with shears. The calyx is the part of the flower that protects the fruits when it begins to grow. I had always called these 'the leaves' of the persimmon. Nope. They aren't.
Step Three: Use a paring knife to cut a flat lip in the top of the fruits and cut away the shoulder of the hachiya.
Step Four: Peel the fruit.
Step Five: Tie cotton twine onto the stem so that you can hang the persimmons.
Step Six: Hang and wait.
Soraya's set-up is much more elegant than mine...
You want to keep them in a place with good airflow and some humidity. Don't touch them for 7 to 10 days, then every few days after that, massage them gently. As the tannins in the fruit break down, the persimmon will become pliable and turn dark. After several weeks, the sugar in the fruit will bloom to the surface and you will end up with beautiful, delicious hoshigaki.
Last year I sliced them up and used them on cheese boards. But Jenn mentioned they are served with tea in Japan. These will be ready in time for Christmas. Stay tuned!
And, if you are local to me, keep an eye out for events at Thomas Farm through Community Cultural Tours. Back in March we celebrated Jenn's 49th with a lemon workshop. We made preserved lemons, watched Penny make lemon marmalade, and got recipes for limoncello.
Check back in five weeks or so for a report on the hoshigaki outcome from my crew! Stay tuned.
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