The celebration of the New Year presents dried California persimmons, an autumn ritual of slow, gentle persuasion.
When ripe, the skin of the hachiya persimmon displays a smooth, gentle lustre—as if lit from within; it is the deep, resonant orange of flame, streaked occasionally with black. Cupped in one's palm, the fruit is plump, ample, weighted, giving slightly to the touch. The flesh within possesses a sweet, honeyed flavor; its texture is succulent, that of thick jelly dissolving on the tongue. The hachiya persimmon reaches a stage of ripeness so fragile that it must be handled very delicately, the fruit as vulnerable as it is exquisite.
The season of the heart-shaped hachiya is fleeting, but I knew the possibility: through careful drying, I could make the persimmon last a little longer . . . I could preserve it, at its cusp of tannicity, and slowly turn it into concentrated sweetness . . . and even offer it as nectar for courting lovers on the feast of Saint Valentine.
The months of November and December are devoted to the preparation. There is a beauty and serenity surrounding the process—hand harvesting and peeling, air drying, gentle massaging and attentive monitoring. Like making chocolate, the integrity of drying persimmons involves an intimate relationship between maker and fruit; we must together pinpoint a fluent cadence to maintain the quality of the finished product.
The drying of a hachiya rises into a fruit of tender, chewy interior—as vivid and evocative as the ripe persimmon itself. Its taste is ambrosia with a flavor reminiscent of apricot, date, the hint of cinnamon. Once completely dried, the hachiya persimmon reveals a startling beauty. Sliced thinly on the diagonal, it makes a beautiful addition to a cheese platter. It is delicious served for dessert as solitary morsel or dipped in a velvety dark chocolate.
With gratitude to Master Gardeners Peter and Gwendolyn Jacobsen of Jacobsen Orchards who welcome me into their home and garden, enlighten me with their well-educated palates and inspire me to create beautiful foods like dried persimmons.
Ingredients Hachiya persimmons, brandyNet Weight 6 oz gift bag (3 persimmons)