Umami Mart Registry

Every year, when I see the hachiya persimmons fruiting on neighbors trees I think to myself, "I should learn how to make hoshigaki." But as soon as I think this, Kayoko and I are already in the throes of the holiday season: building gift sets, receiving a ton of new inventory, and packing online orders for the holidays. And pretty soon, everyone is proudly displaying their hoshigaki in their windows, and my chance has passed me by.

Last week, I woke up and thought to myself "No excuses! Do it!" So I called my mom and asked her what I needed to do. The first thing she said was, "You need to find someone with a tree, because the ones at the stores don't have the 'T' stem that you need to tie the knots on them for hanging." We didn't have to look far. My childhood friend (who saw my plea for fruit on Instagram) whose mom happens to be my mom's best friend, had a tree. 

So within a few hours, my mom had three boxes of hachiya persimmons at her house, hand delivered to her by her friend. The networking power of Japanese ladies is no joke.

My mom came to the shop on Tuesday, Nov 15, with supplies in hand, and we got to work. Kayoko and her daughter joined in on the fun, making it a three-generational affair. 

Here's how to hoshigaki.

First, wipe off each fruit with a paper towel.

Working around the top of the fruit, peel the fruit from the outer edge toward the base of the stem. 

Peel until the top surface is exposed.

Next, peel the fruit in a spiral motion. My mom was a pro, and peeled in one continuous motion. 

Finishing off the bottom.

The peeled fruit should look like this:

Meanwhile, bring a pot (about 5-6" high) of water to a boil.

As the water is coming to a boil, prepare the twine. We cut the pieces of twine at 25".

Double knot one end to the "T" stem of the fruit. Then with the other end, repeat with another fruit.

The pair should look like this.

Now it's time to sterilize the fruit in the boiling pot of water.

Completely submerge the fruit for 8 seconds.

It's time to hang! We have a beautiful steel bar over our bar that's perfect for hanging hoshigaki. It's also near a skylight which is ideal. You want to hang them in a place that is dry and bright so that the fruit is less susceptible to mold. Make sure to use gloves when handling the freshly sterilized fruit!

After a little over an hour, we had over 40 fruit hanging over our bar. 

In 5-6 days, we'll need to massage the fruit (with gloves) to distribute the sugars in the fruit. And then, 3-4 days after that we'll massage again.

My mom says that since it's pretty dry, these should be done in about 2-3 weeks. We'll keep checking and keep you posted. In the meantime, visit our bar and marvel at these beauties.

I'm happy to say that I've finally done it after all of these years!

UPDATE: Two Weeks, Nov 29

Here's what our hoshigaki looks like, two weeks after hanging. We've had a few casualties, which have fallen on the floor, but most are hanging on.

I've been massaging each one every 2-3 days. This helps distribute the sugars in the fruit. I fear that massaging them too rigorously caused one to drop off its string. So massage gently!

I noticed mold at the base of the stems on some of the fruit about a week ago. With perfect timing, my aunt gave me a nifty spray bottle over Thanksgiving break. So I filled the bottle up with 43% ABV shochu and sprayed the fruit to keep the mold away. So far it's been working great and has stopped the spread of the mold.

I think it'll take another two weeks to start seeing the sugars crystalize on the surface of the fruit. We'll keep you posted!

UPDATE: Four Weeks, Dec 14

I was beginning to worry because at three and a half weeks, there was not much happening. But part of the joy of hoshigaki is that they change so gradually. And quietly with no fanfare, one day you'll suddenly see thin white streaks forming on the surface. This moment happened for me exactly one month in.

It was very exciting to start seeing a dusting of white powder starting to form, but I knew I had to give them more time because they still fell firm. I had been diligently massaging them almost everyday, and you really get to know the hoshigaki. Some days they seem hard, while on other days, they give into the massage. As they willingly begin to mold to the pressure of your fingertips, the hoshigaki seem closer to being ready. Ultimately, you want them to feel like a gummy bear.

UPDATE: Completion Five and half weeks, Dec 24

How fitting that these hoshigaki waited until the last day we were open at the shop. For the five and a half weeks they were up, they had a steady audience. Customers took photos, and commented on their trials and tribulations with their own hoshigaki ventures. This is what they looked like on Christmas Eve, 39 days later.

Here's one lone hoshigaki basking in the glow of the winter morning sun that declares "I'm ready."

I took these babies home and enjoyed them over Christmas weekend.

Freeing the fruit from its ties.

Slicing the fruit reveals a stunning deep orange jelly-like hue that sparkles in the daylight, contrasting with the powdery exterior that looks like its been dusted with snow.

I enjoyed the hoshigaki alongside sencha and it was simply perfect. The taste of the fruit is earthy, savory, and sweet, juggling notes of dates, red bean paste, grapevine, and jasmine. 

This was one of my favorite discoveries this year. Watching hoshigaki during the busiest time of the year (as retailers), allowed me to slow down, and look forward to each day as it passed. Eating the completed hoshigaki is satisfying, but this is one of those traditions where the journey is just as enjoyable as the destination.

Column: Japanify


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