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Sun-dried persimmons are worth the obsession

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Sun-dried persimmons are worth the obsession

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The first time I made hoshigaki, the Japanese dried persimmons that are massaged every day or so to even out their shape and moisture and to soften the fibers inside, was at cooking instructor Sonoko Sakai. in the Highland Park part of town. Standing around a table in the garden, we washed, trimmed and peeled the fruit, tied each stalk in a noose, then dipped the persimmons in boiling water for just a few seconds. By the time we were done, which took hours, over 200 fruits were swinging on a large rack rolling in the sun. But at home, the scene was less charming: a dozen strings hanging from my clothesline, threatening to tip over if the breeze picked up.

Every day I wore the stand outside and put it in the sun on a clean mat, in case it fell, adjusting the persimmons so they didn’t touch each other. Over the days, I got more and more attached. Armed with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab, I inspected them for any off-putting mold stains that might form where the fruits lacked light or air. I didn’t want to lose a single persimmon! My dogs perceived the intensity of these vibrations and became protective, lying near the fruit whenever I put it outside, protecting it from squirrels and gripping birds.

A month of this process might seem like an eternity, but everything in the kitchen takes place on its own private timescale. The kimchi sparkles in the back of the fridge. The salted lemons relax in their jars. Pleasantly acidifying yogurt. I had been afraid to commit to massaging the fruit every day, but this step was not as elaborate as the word suggested. I wasn’t setting each fruit down and working its tiny knots. The massage was much closer to loving pressure here and there, gentle kneading, friendly recording. “Dried” didn’t seem to be the right word either. After about three weeks, when the sugars bloomed on the surface, the fruits were much smaller than when they were fresh, but still substantial – thick and wonderfully plump, tender to the touch.

When I cut them they were dark brown and shiny. Some tasted sweeter than others, but all had a rich, syrupy, almost floral flavor, a complicated, slightly alcoholic taste. I intended to have them with cheese or fresh red walnuts, but every time I cut one I ate it just like that, little by little, letting the honeyed smell fill my mouth, me. asking if I would figure it out how to describe it, and knowing that I would go through this process every year from now on, as long as some friends are willing to let me pick persimmons from their trees.

Recipe: Hoshigaki (Dried persimmons)

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