At Sonoko Sakai’s house in Highland Park, I learned how to make hoshigaki, the Japanese dried persimmons that are massaged every day or so to even out their form and wetness and to soften the fibres inside.
It took about two seconds to blanch the persimmons in a pot of boiling water, which we did while gathered around a table in the backyard. When we completed, which took hours, there were more than 200 fruits swaying on the rolling stand. My laundry rack was littered with a dozen dangling cords, which threatened to fall over if the wind picked up.
The persimmons were spaced apart so that they wouldn’t touch each other on the rack, which I moved outside every day. I became more and more devoted to her as the days went by. For any mould that might have formed since the fruits were deprived of light or air, I used a cotton swab coated in alcohol to inspect them.
There wasn’t a single persimmon that I didn’t want to waste! Since my dogs were sensitive to these energies, they’ve taken a protective stance toward the fruit, sleeping by its side whenever I set it outside to keep squirrels and birds from stealing it.
It may seem like a long time, but everything in the kitchen moves at its own pace, even if it seems like it is taking forever. The kimchi is bubbling away in the refrigerator’s back. The jars of salted lemons have begun to sag. The yoghurt has started to sour. When I first heard the word “massaging” used,
I was apprehensive about making a long-term commitment to this practise. As a rule, I didn’t spend any time tinkering with each individual fruit. As a result, the massage was more like an affectionate squeeze, a soft knead, or a pleasant check-in. Also, the word “dried” didn’t seem to fit. Three weeks after they were picked, the fruits had shrunk in size but remained substantial – thick and deliciously plump, yet still delicate to the touch.
They had a rich, glossy brown colour when I cut them open. They varied in sweetness, but all had a rich, syrupy flavour with hints of flowers, a complex and slightly alcoholic flavour. Initially, I had planned to eat them with some cheese or fresh red walnuts, but each time I sliced one up, I ate it just like that, savouring the honeyed scent, wondering if I could describe it, and knowing that I would repeat this process every year as long as friends would let me pick persimmons from their trees.
How to make Hoshigaki (Dried Persimmons)