Sarashi-gaki (Astringent persimmons treated with alcohol)
I don't think anyone does this outside Japan. Maybe even in Japan, not many people do this or know about this. I'm talking about treating astringent persimmons with alcohol to remove the astringency. It's easy. You just have to wet the top, including the stem end, of the persimmons with strong liquor and put them in a plastic bag, wrap well and leave in a warm place (around 35 to 40 degrees C? I'm not sure) for 2 to 3 days. We usually use shochu (distilled spirit) named 'White Liquor' or whiskey.
Actually the ones in this photo look rather round, but usually astringent persimmons are acorn-shaped. (Don't tell me that some acorns are flat and round.) Non-Japanese people might be more used to eating/using the pulp of VERY ripe, soft persimmons, but in Japan, it is more common to eat sweet varieties of persimmons while they are still firm, and sun-dry astringent varieties to make hoshi-gaki. It is not very popular to make sarashi-gaki like we do, though.
Our family used to put a bagful of alcohol-treated astringent persimmons in leftover warm water in the bathtub (traditionally we don't wash our bodies in the bathtub and the whole family members share the water in the tub), or leave them in the sun for several days, or in a kotatsu heater.
Now the majority of the grannies in this community use -- I'm not sure how you call this in English -- electrical warming mattress? Mom wraps the bagful of alcohol-treated persimmons with the mattress, then with another blanket, turn on the switch and leave it. In about 2 to 3 days, the astringency will be gone and the persimmons turn soft, but not overripe-soft, and sweet. And I would say that the sweetness is a bit different from that of sweet varieties of persimmons. Honestly I like this sarashi-gaki better than regular sweet persimmons.
But, I wonder if Japanese manufacturers of the electrical warming mattress would approve of this use of the product. :P
BTW, I uploaded some photos from our traditional festival here, if you are interested. :)
OK. Now I remembered what "mattress" meant in other countries. Yeah, perhaps I should have used the word "pad." What my mom uses looks like this (a little thinner, though) and I guess it's too stiff and too narrow to be called a blanket, maybe?
(Added Oct. 28, 2009)
Oh, I hope that no one has tried making sarashi-gaki from what I wrote above yet. When I asked mom what to do, she did say, "Remove the stem ends." But today we made some more sareashi-gaki, and I found out that the following was what my mom really meant.
First thing to do is to trim the unwanted part of the calyx and pull out the stem. Today we pinched the stem with a nipper and twisted the fruit. Ideally, the stem should come out and leave a hole like this, but when it didn't, we poked the center with an ice pick. Mom said that just poking was enough--you don't really need to dig out the stem to make a visible hole.
Next step: Dip tissue paper into whiskey and wet the top part of the persimmon carefully. Put alcohol-treated persimmons in a thick plastic bag, tie the top with a string, then put it in another thick plastic bag and tie the top.