Dried California Persimmons

 

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 ones palm, the fruit is plump, ample, and 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 foresaw the possibility: through careful drying, I could make the persimmon last a little longer . . . I could preserve it, at the cusp of its tannicity, and slowly coax it toward a concentrated sweetness . . . Perhaps, I might even offer it as nectar for courting lovers on the feast of Saint Valentine . . . 

The months of November, December, and January 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 the making of chocolate, the integrity of drying persimmons involves an intimate relationship between maker and fruit; we must together pinpoint a fluent cadence to ensure 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 flavors evocative of marshmallow, apricot, date, cinnamon, and cake-batter. 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, to accompany a cup of green tea and a dish of roasted almonds, or dipped in a velvety dark chocolate.