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Hoshigaki: The Kobe Beef of Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Since my first exposure to them a few years ago, I have been obsessed with hoshigaki, the Japanese slow-dried persimmons. (You may even recall that I used them in a salad a while back.) I like dried fruit in general, but these are within a category all their own. Unlike the tart chewiness of dried apricots or prunes, hoshigaki are dense, meaty and rather subtly sweet. 

They are also fantastically expensive. 

As a person who's got more time than money on his hands of late, I spend more time than usual considering how I can take matters into my own hands, start with inexpensive raw materials and create something that would otherwise cost me more than I care to spend. Since persimmons are currently trending under three bucks a pound, I simply had to try my hand at making hoshigaki, which retail around a dollar apiece. 

There's somewhat limited information out on the interwebs about making hoshigaki. Quite a lot of conversation, mind you, but little in the way of specific instruction. In part, I imagine this is because so few people are doing it in anglophone countries. But there's enough for me to intuit the major steps, and so certainly enough for me to take a stab at it. The worst that could happen is that I'm out a couple bucks' worth of fresh persimmons. 

This much is abundantly clear: You start with hachiya persimmons, the elongated type that are normally left to ripen until the insides are as soft as jelly. However, you start this process with firm hachiyas. These are not edible in this state; the fruit is intensely tannic. Don't trust me? Fine, go ahead and take a taste. I'll wait.

Yeah, see what I mean? See how your mouth feels like it's been stuffed with wool and you get that bitter, almost metallic taste? Delicious, huh?

The good news is that aging the persimmons breaks down the tannins and mellows the fruit. But it will require patience. 

Anyway, select fruit that has at least some of the stem intact, so you have something to tie onto. Trim away the sepals at the top, and peel the fruit completely. I find the best way is to peel a ring around the top, then peel down in broad strokes along the sides. 

Peeled Persimmons

Be careful: The fruit's flesh is alternately slippery and sticky, and you're likely to jam the peeler into one or more digits during the process. Once the fruit is peeled, select a spot with good ventilation and protection from the elements. I've seen recommendations that it be a spot that gets some sun, as well. (I put mine in our basement … hope the sun isn't a necessary factor.) Tie kitchen twine around the stems of the fruit and hang them, making sure they don't touch each other.

Hanging Persimmons

And wait. After several days, the fruit should take on a leathery exterior. Once that happens, every few days, gently massage the fruit to break down the cell walls within. Don't go all shiatsu on it; just a gentle squeeze or three to distribute the sugars and moisture will do. After several weeks, the fruit should be shriveled, dark and coated with a fine powdering of white sugar. 

I just started this lucky batch of 13 persimmons the other day. I'll report back with progress. Hopefully they won't get eaten by ants/mice/my dog in the meantime. 

Stay tuned!

  • Good luck! I had a Japanese blog friend who failed at this. (She might not have peeled.)
    I am SO giving you some dried orange segments from my magic-flavored tree.

  • This just blew my mind. Love it. Can’t wait to see the results.

  • My mom loves dried persimmons and they only come out around Chinese New Year. I remember trying it out as a kid and not liking it too much. Haven’t tried it since.
    Good luck! I look forward to hearing about the end product.

  • n

    I thought they were supposed to be hung outside during winter to dry in cold dry atmosphere

  • Our winters are not typically dry so I'm working with what I've got. 

  • here in japan we hang them outside under a roof where they get some light. not sure how big a factor it is but it seems it could play a part in preventing mold. i’m no expert though, ours failed last year b/c of mold, it was especially rainy here. will try the massaging this year hopefully to prevent it from happening again. also people here sometimes dip them in boiling water before hanging them, also i’ve heard of people rubbing sake into the skins if they start to mold.

  • You are making hoshigaki? Good luck with that! There is a persimmon grower out here, Otow Orchards in Granite Bay, that makes hoshigaki. I love going out to visit them this time of year because the persimmons are so beautiful. Here’s a photo I posted from one of my visits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/elisebauer/1956553981/

  • This is great information, Anna. It's pretty dry in our basement, and the skin has already started to develop a leathery texture, so I'm hopeful we won't get mold. It's not pitch dark down there; there is a window on one end. Anyway, worst case scenario is I'm out a few persimmons. 

  • That's gorgeous, Elise! I'm hopeful my hoshigaki come out … we shall see. 

  • I hate to uh, rain on your parade, but my mother tried here in Yokohama where the winters are rather balmy (rarely going much under zero C) and they molded like ew. I saw tons of them hanging everywhere up in the Tohoku region last week, where it was already cold and dry and rather windy. I wish you luck!

  • One more thing is…I’m a Japanese person who is not that fond of hoshigaki… ^_^; (I prefer the fresh kind, Jiro-gaki is my favorite type)

  • Ah, well, we'll see what happens. We do see some producers of hoshigaki here, albeit not in the city per se. Wish me luck! 

  • I’m so curious as to how these work out. I’ve never seen them done indoors, and I wonder about the mold factor as well. If your batch fails, I could try drying some for you up here. It’s cold enough!
    Good on you for trying.

  • I’m very curious how these turned out. It’s been a few weeks now. I hope they turned out perfectly! Happy Thanksgiving! ; )

  • Sean-
    It was great to meet you this afternoon and chat about persimmons, distillates, and urban homesteading. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and passion for flavor (and for your patience with my 5yo “helper”).
    This is an amazing DIY persimmon effort here! Keep us posted…
    I can’t wait to make some (citrus)-cellos of my own.
    Thanks again!