Every fall, the hoshigaki magic begins. Without fail, many Bay Area restaurants take part in the centuries-old practice of making hoshigaki, peeling and stringing up pearl-like orbs of Hachiya persimmons, then hanging them from rafters for weeks on end to create joyful, orange curtains of fruit. The eventual result? A prized, dried fruit with a beautiful bloom of white sugar on its exterior. It’s a patience-testing endeavor, but the resulting treat makes the labor and wait worthwhile.
For Eater readers who’ve always wanted to try their hand at making hoshigaki, there’s still time. This year’s season saw some delays so there’s still fruit out there for hanging. We asked hoshigaki-making pro SiewChinn Chin from Oakland’s Ramen Shop to show us the process. Chin runs Ramen Shop’s fermentation program and has set up hoshigaki-making there for years. Prior to joining the Ramen Shop team, she worked as a pastry chef at Berkeley’s esteemed Chez Panisse and was a Basque Culinary World Prize finalist in 2019.
What materials will I need to make hoshigaki?
- Hachiya persimmons are the larger, teardrop-shaped persimmons and you’re looking for firm Hachiyas without any green hue on the skin — a “beautiful, brilliant orange color,” Chin describes. Ideally, the persimmons should have a piece of branch attached. Fuyu persimmons that resemble miniature pumpkins won’t work.
- A peeler for removing the skins.
- A paring or bird’s beak knife for cleaning up the calyx, the green leafy part to which the persimmon is attached.
- Butcher twine or thick string for hanging.
- Baking sheets or containers to hold fruit during prep.
Meanwhile, these items are optional:
- A drying rack is handy if you don’t have a place to hang the persimmons in your home.
- A fan is helpful for creating air circulation, a necessary part of the process.
- Boiling water for curing the persimmons.
How do you start the hoshigaki-making process?
Gather your materials in one area. Use a paring knife or scissors to trim back the calyx, that leafy green part at the top of the persimmon. You want to cut back enough so there’s no leaf overhanging the orange part of the fruit.
Next, remove the skin using a peeler, starting at the shoulder and moving in a circular motion around the calyx. Then, starting at the shoulder again, peel the fruit in a downward motion from the shoulder to the tip until completely peeled, using long strokes if possible. Take care not to crush the fruit, which can bruise the persimmon and cause drying issues later. Store the persimmon, calyx side down, on a baking sheet as you repeat the peeling process.
In a home kitchen, Chin recommends dunking the peeled persimmon in boiling water for a few seconds “to cure it from bacteria.” Bacteria is less of a concern in a restaurant kitchen, which is sanitized often, but at home “unfriendly bacteria” can be more of a threat, Chin says. Once the persimmon is pulled from the water, dry it as thoroughly as possible before hanging.
How do you tie the persimmons?
Pre-measure your butcher twine to whatever length is needed to hang the fruit. Chin hangs hers in pairs, which helps with balancing, but they can also be hung individually. She measures out 24-inch lengths of string for tying a persimmon at each end.
Tie a clove hitch knot around the branch and push it down to the base, before tightening. Pick another peeled, similarly-sized persimmon and tie it to the other end of the string. The string will then have a tied persimmon at each end, perfect for balancing when hanging. Trim any extra string from the knot so it doesn’t touch the peeled persimmon while it’s hanging.
What if there is no branch to tie the string to?
If there is no branch, you do have options. Chin doesn’t recommend hanging persimmon without an attached branch, but “if you’re desperate” she suggests using a bamboo skewer. Puncture the persimmon with a skewer, vertically at its shoulder just below the calyx, then tie the string to the stick. The persimmon will ooze for a couple of days at the puncture sites before it eventually forms a sugar crust.
Where should I hang the persimmons?
Chin hangs the Ramen Shop persimmons from kitchen pipes, wrapping them twice to create space between the persimmons and hanging them at different heights to help encourage air circulation around each fruit.
At home, you’re looking for an area with lots of air circulation and some sun, such as in an east-facing window. A clothing rack is an ideal solution if you’re lacking both, and Chin recommends tying the fruit to the rack, taking it outside in the sun during the day, and bringing it in at night — just take care not to let the persimmons get wet. If that’s not an option, an indoor fan aimed at the fruit will help; run the fan during the day, and turn it off at night.
Now comes the patience-testing part: After about three days, the exterior of the fruit should toughen up into a leathery texture. Once that happens, you’ll start “massaging” the fruit daily — aim to break up the interior tissue of the persimmon without puncturing the exterior skin. Press your thumbs into the persimmons and work them through each fruit, forming it into a teardrop shape. This is ideally done daily, but can be stretched into every other day or so. A white sugar bloom will start to form on the outside — that’s how you know you’re on the right track.
How will I know when the hoshigaki are done?
Depending on the air circulation, the persimmons can be ready to eat in three weeks or can take up to six weeks or more. What you’re looking for is when the persimmon is dried, but still somewhat pliable and squishy. They shouldn’t be tough, at that point the fruit is overdried. Hoshigaki are typically cut into rounds and served with tea. Pieces can be stored in an airtight container for up to six months.