Monday, October 26, 2009

Our Sweet Potatoes

Our Sweet Potatoes--just harvested

Sorry. This photo is a couple of weeks old. And I couldn't post a photo of the dessert, "suiito poteto (sweet potato)" that I made with these potatoes. The dessert was not a great success, but my family and mom's tea ceremony students ate them all real quick and I didn't have a chance to take a photo of them. (OK. Let's be honest. I almost forced them to eat the dessert. ) :P

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(Added Oct. 27, 2009)

OK. Now it's officially settled. I'm visiting Hong Kong from Nov. 2nd to 5th and will be staying at BP International hotel for three nights.

Dear readers in Hong Kong--if any--, what do you recommend to eat at BP International or in town? (We may not have time to eat in town, though...)
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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sarashi-gaki

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.

Acorn-shaped astringent persimmons

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. :)
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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?

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(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.



Wrap the bag with electric blanket (or bed pad or mattress pad or whatever it is called) and then with another regular blanket. Leave for 3 days.


This was how we brought back the harvested persimmons from the orchard. Dad held the front end of the bamboo and I held the other end.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Umeshu

Homemade Umeshu (Ume Plum Infused Liquor)

A follow-up on the umeshu I made in May, 2009. The above photo is the one I took in early September and forgot to post then. See how wrinkled up the plums were? After taking this shot, I took out the plums and poured the liquor into an empty glass bottle. It took only a few weeks to empty the bottle. Yes? I already drank it up. Hahaha...

To tell you the truth, everything we made with our ume plums this year -- juice, ume miso and liquor -- was a little disappointing, especially the juice was awful. (Jam was alright.) Everything had a little unpleasant flavor perhaps because the plums had speckles which were actually a disease. Mom made juice and ume-miso with store-bought ume plums with no disease last year and the year before, and they were great. So mom and I decided to use store-bought ones next summer and make only jam with our ume plums.
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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Morning! -5-

After a typhoon night

Typhoon Melor passed by our prefecture last night. It's on the main island of Japan now and moving up northward. I hope it doesn't cause serious damage there...

I expected a sunny day today with clear blue sky, like it usually is after a big typhoon in autumn, but oh-no. It's getting really cloudy now and might rain soon ...
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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Maybe It Wasn't As Bad As I Thought...

Maybe this bread wasn't a crash and burn like I wrote in my previous post, after all. After letting it rest overnight and using a sharper knife to slice, I got quite decent slices.

I made very easy open sandwiches with sliced cheese and ham, and they were not bad. If used better cheese and some vegetables, and/or some meat with a little spicy seasoning, I think this bread will make really nice and nutritious sandwiches. Now I'm glad that I gave this bread a try.
:)

The recipe was again from the Japanese recipe site, and this seems to be a "quasi-" German bread recipe that was simplified and modified for Japanese home bakers. It is absolutely a no-brainer; you just mix and bake, without leavening. For this bread I used black sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds (which I bought by mistake. I thought I grabbed a bag of sunflower seeds at the store, but obviously I grabbed a wrong one. But I don't think pumpkin seeds ruined the taste of the bread).
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Thursday, October 01, 2009

AHHHHHH...!

This was supposed to be German bread...

I don't know exactly what went wrong, but this turned out terribly tough on the outside and extremely sticky on the inside. :P

Yesterday I was too tired to do anything, so stayed in my futon almost all day. Today I woke up feeling refreshed, and felt like a challenge. That was the reason why I gave this German bread a try, but it was a crash and burn that I hadn't had for a while. Hahaha...

But I had a wonderful, exciting time from September 27th to 29th, being a tourguide. I still don't have enough energy to write about it in details, but a brief summary is on my another blog, if you are interested. :)
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