I am slightly obsessed with persimmons. They never really registered in my consciousness before I moved to California. Turns out there is a native variety in Indiana where I grew up, but I didn’t notice the trees as a kid, only the ubiquitous and delicious persimmon pudding made from them. But those Midwestern natives are a different tree entirely from what I encountered when I moved to California. Here, people grow Japanese persimmon varieties which produce gorgeous orange globes in late November, hanging from otherwise bare trees in a late and exuberant showing of abundance.
As many of you probably know, there are two basic varieties of persimmons, astringent and non-astringent. Fuyu is the most common non-astringent variety and is delicious just eaten raw like an apple or cut up in salads. A fuyu, pomegranate seed and walnut salad with fresh greens is my definition of late fall farm-to-table delight. And then there are the astringent varieties of which Hachiya is the best known. The astringent varieties are a bit harder to consume. They have to ripen just to the point of being over-ripe to become truly sweet and lose their mouth puckering astringency. Quite frankly, by the time they are perfectly ripe, the texture of the fruit resembles, well, snot.
However, I had once sampled a Japanese treat called Hoshigaki, which is an ancient method of turning these astringent problem children of the Fall harvest into the kobe beef of dried fruit. I had to try it. The process of making hoshigaki is not for the faint of heart. In short, you peel unripe fruit, hang them delicately from a bit of the remaining stem and calyx, then massage them gently every day or so for 4-6 weeks. So very Japanese. My neighbors who have a lovely and old Hachiya persimmon were kind enough to gift me with two dozen persimmons to try my hand at making Hoshigaki. And so, I started out with a few gorgeous fruits hanging in our windows to dry.
Well, when I told our neighbors how much fun I had making my first foray into Hoshigaki, they got excited too. And gave me, oh, about 200 more persimmons. Yeah, 200.
Two hundred persimmons; that’s a crazy amount of persimmon. So I went crazy too, and started hanging them all over the house. You have to duck to get into some rooms of our house right now, no joke. And I *still* had fruit left over. To make Hoshigaki, you really need to start with completely unripe fruit, and after a few nights of peeling and hanging, some of my gifted persimmons had started to go mushy on me. So in desperation, I looked for some other persimmon recipes, and stumbled upon a few for persimmon fruit leather aka fruit rollups. Genius! So, I converted a dozen or so of the riper persimmons into these little morsels, and they turned out quite well. Very tasty, and rather pretty in the morning light as well.
Here is the very simple recipe for persimmon fruit roll-ups I settled on by the third and final batch.
Spiced Persimmon Holiday Roll-ups
- 4 very ripe hachiya ( or any other astringent variety) persimmons
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
- Blend pulp of persimmons with spices until smooth, just a minute or so.
- Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Divide spiced pulp in half and pour onto prepared baking sheets.
- Spread into an even layer with a spatula.
- Bake for 3-4 hours until mostly dry and slightly cracked around the edges.
The hoshigaki are mostly dry now, and are beginning to taste tasty! I think I need to massage them more rigorously the next time I try this particular form of food preservation. I have not gotten the promised bloom of powdered sugar on the outside either. I think it might be too dry in our house, but the fruit I hung outside just got moldy in a few days. I will need to wait another week or two for most of them to be fully dry, and since I finally have a break in my work schedule, I plan to give them a bit more attention.
The other persimmon fun I have been having is selecting the varieties of the trees we will plant in our orchard. This is the list of what I wanted, but alas, one of these growers is in Florida and cannot ship to California. If any friends outside of California, care to order them, plant them, and let me know what you think, that would be most awesome. The final item in the list is a Black and Blue persimmon from Korea. It looks so exotic and enticing, but I can’t have it. Drat.