During fall in Japan, it is common to find rows of persimmons tied on strings all along the countryside. Hoshigaki are made by stringing up persimmons and hanging them up to dry in the sun. This was an old preservation method developed to keep the sweet orange fruits throughout the winter. Hoshigaki were also used as ornaments in traditional New Year’s decorations and were considered a sign of good luck and longevity.
The two most common types of persimmons are hachiya persimmon and fuyu persimmon. Hachiya persimmons are teardrop-shaped and cannot be eaten until they are completely soft, otherwise, they’re incredibly astringent. Fuyu on the other hand are rounder and squat and are sweet and crunchy. Hachiya persimmons are traditionally used in hoshigaki. Whereas, Korea and China dry fuyu persimmons.
The process of making hoshigaki involves dipping unripe hachiya persimmons into boiling water for a few seconds to sterilize the persimmon fruit. Though some like to dip theirs in brandy or vodka, while others skip this step entirely. Then peel the skin off the persimmon and trim around the top of the fruit to leave room for a loop of string. Tie string around the top of the persimmon. You can tie a couple of persimmons onto a singular piece of string, so long as they are not touching and have enough room to dry out. Then hung the persimmon garlands up in a dry warm place with plenty of air circulation. If the space is neither sunny nor breezy, a fan is a must. This is important to avoid mold, which is unpleasant to look at and inedible too.
The next step may sound ludicrous, but it’s crucial and should not be skipped. The persimmons must be dried by hand when the exterior has dried to the touch. This process must be repeated every day. You don’t have to perform a deep tissue massage, a gentle touch once a day applying light pressure is sufficient. Once the fruits have hardened more you can begin to work your way to a light massage, but no squeezing.
Timing can vary from persimmon to persimmon, which is why it’s important to keep an eye on how each persimmon progresses. Over time the persimmons will turn dark and a whitish sugar bloom will develop on the fruit. When the hoshigaki is firm but pliable pull one down and conduct a taste test. The dried persimmon should be chewy and moist with a floral aroma and musky sweetness.
Once ready, hoshigaki can be enjoyed in a number of ways. You can simply slice them and serve them with green tea or really any tea of your preference. Some people enjoy eating hoshigaki alongside a good piece of cheese and some nice crusty bread. The sweet dried persimmon pairs nicely with the salty cheese. You can even bake with them. Try chopping up hoshigaki and mixing it into your favorite muffin recipe. Or you can slice some hoshigaki to top your morning oatmeal or yogurt. Either way, hoshigaki is a delicious, though expensive treat.
Hoshigaki typically fetch high prices at Japanese or Asian supermarkets. The amount of time and care it takes to make a single hoshigaki is factored into its high price, which is why many hoshigaki lovers relish making their own each year. In fact, you may have heard of people’s bread-making obsession last year, but many people also got into the art of making hoshigaki too. Making hoshigaki is a beautiful art of its own, and an edible art form, which we think is the best kind. If you end up making your own hoshigaki this fall, post a photo on Instagram and tag us @bokksu! We would love to see your hoshigaki garlands and food creations.
Watch how hoshigaki are hung up to dry in Japan!