Cultivated Days | Dressed for the holidays
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Dressed for the holidays

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There will never be a white Christmas in Mirukashi. If we get snow it comes only in flurries and dustings that don’t stick. But I consider the kaki trees my consolation. Driving the country roads, it seems the hills are dressed for the holidays, the dull winter landscape bedecked with persimmon-jeweled trees. I can’t help but see them as ornaments dangling from the limbs of Christmas trees. They are a festive sight. Farmhouses too have rows of them drying under the eves. One day I’ll figure out how to make hoshigaki of my own, but in the meantime we are enjoying them fresh in a dish that appears often at the table this time of year. It brings together the sweet orange fruit that softly yields to the bite with slightly bitter chrysanthemum greens that even when blanched are crispy and fibrous. All is dressed with a silken blend of yuzu, light sesame oil, a splash of light soy and a sprinkle of salt.
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The first key step is to squeeze the juice of a yuzu or other fragrant but not too sweet citrus and have it on hand before starting any other preparations. Both the greens and the fruit have a tendency to oxidize quickly and lose their vibrant color. First use a peeler to remove the thick persimmon skins. Cut them into wedges, then smaller random chunks and lightly coat with yuzu juice before setting them aside. Then work quickly to blanch the greens, plunge them into an ice bath, squeeze the water our, chop them into 2cm lengths, wring them again for good measure and quickly coat them as well with a tablespoon or two of citrus juice to prevent the color from fading. Combine the two ingredients, add a bit more citrus juice, a drizzle of oil, a splash of light soy (just enough for fragrance but not enough to mar the color), and salt if desired. Mix, adjust for taste, and mound in a lovely bowl. This salad is light and fresh, sweet against bitter and sour, and silky smooth with a slight crunch. It’s an all around lovely and lively compliment to the heartier, meatier offerings that fortify the belly on increasingly colder evenings.
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As we cross the threshold of the winter solstice the days will again lengthen by imperceptible increments. While the light still feels fleeting, may you all find comfort and cheer in the twinkling of holiday lights or candle flames. Wherever, however, and whatever you may celebrate, I wish you all the happiest of holidays.

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14 Comments
  • Glutton for Life
    Posted at 13:09h, 22 December

    What a treat to have those naturally decorated trees in your landscape! Thank you for this lovely recipe. Happy holidays! xo

    • Prairie
      Posted at 01:51h, 23 December

      Laura, A follower on IG mentioned that she would try this recipe with dandelion greens and my first thought was, I should mention that to Laura… Enjoy the winter wonderland!

  • Elizabeth Andoh
    Posted at 13:45h, 22 December

    I, too, envy your persimmon-studded landscape! Here is Tokyo, the birds have pecked away at the last of the fruit.

    Suggestion: Save the persimmon peels, air-dry them, and add them to your nuka (rice bran) pickle pot. Helps to “sweeten” souring fermented nuka paste. No need to pick the peels out later, they will eventually decompose.

    Another suggestion (for any over-ripe fruit): Take over-ripe persimmon fruit, mash and mix it with a bit of koji, and use this fruit-and-koji mixture as a pickling medium. Bury radishes and/or turnips in the mash for several days (to several weeks). Enjoy!
    .

    • Prairie
      Posted at 01:47h, 23 December

      Elizabeth, I too see now and then a persimmon jeweled raven flying around these days. In fact there was a tall stack of wooden pallets piled very close to the tree I photographed for this post and it was clearly a feasting site for birds, strewn with bits of orange peel and seeds. Thank you for the many wonderful suggestions!

  • Bessie Smith Moulton
    Posted at 17:13h, 22 December

    Hello Prairie and Hanako, greetings from snowy Maine! I ran across this textile artist who dyes with persimmons (and other natural materials). I am checking into his workshops.
    http://japanesetextileworkshops.blogspot.com
    I enjoy your blog. Have happy holidays!
    Bessie

    • Prairie
      Posted at 01:49h, 23 December

      Hi Bessie, So many good uses for this fruit! How exciting if you could join his workshop. Enjoy the snowy landscape – I’m envious of your white Christmas…

  • Kandie Waggoner
    Posted at 23:35h, 22 December

    So beautiful. Thank you for posting.

    • Prairie
      Posted at 01:43h, 23 December

      Thank you Kandie! And thank you for reading!

  • Lari Washburn
    Posted at 14:24h, 23 December

    Happy holidays you two! What a beautiful shot that persimmon tree is. I never know what a persimmon should feel like in the market when it is ready to buy. Are they meant to be really soft or not? Wishing you both all the best.
    XO
    Lari

    • Prairie
      Posted at 02:02h, 24 December

      Hi Lari! Persimmons are tricky – they will feel quite firm even when the flesh inside is rather soft. I look for a nice deep color and a slight give when pressed. Big holiday hugs to you!

  • Mora
    Posted at 20:46h, 23 December

    This wonderful post made me think back to Tokyo last October 2015. Right next door to the apartment we rented was a large persimmon tree with drooping branches, laden with firm fruits. The neighbors had taken Sharpie pens and drawn classic jack o’lantern faces on them. Have you seen the same in Mirakushi?

    Looking forward to trying your recipe next fall when firm persimmons are available. For now, I have soft, pudding-like ones in the refrigerator to deal with. The result of tucking them into cold-storage before our Kyoto trip. Persimmon pudding may be up next.

    Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and holiday season! Warm hugs from Portland, Oregon.

    • Prairie
      Posted at 02:00h, 24 December

      Mora, I have never seen the persimmon-o-lanterns here. Most of the trees I run across are out along country roads and rather hard to access amidst brambles and weeds. Persimmon pudding sounds great, or check out in these comments Elizabeth Andoh’s ideas for over-ripe persimmons. Perhaps something to try as well. Very happy holidays to you two as well!

  • nina
    Posted at 08:24h, 28 December

    the most lovely blog on the internet!

    • Prairie
      Posted at 07:56h, 04 January

      Thank you, Nina!