The famous western proverb, “An apple a day keeps the doctors away” has a parallel old Japanese saying, “When the kaki turns red, the doctor feels blue.” “Kaki”-柿 is the Japanese word for persimmon which is a fruit high in Vitamin C and tannins.
My family eats a lot of persimmons throughout the fall season as there are many orchards nearby. In my grandparents’ backyard, there are two types of persimmon trees, an astringent one and a non-astringent type. My mother especially loves eating the non-astringent type called “Fuyu-gaki” and eats them before they get soft while they’re still as crisp as apples.
My grandfather makes dried persimmons -干し柿 from the astringent ones. My father is in the lumber business and he recommends varnish made from astringent persimmon trees for natural antiseptic purposes. So I thought I knew all about Japanese persimmons.
When I found out about persimmon vinegar and how to make it, I was fascinated. There is a lot of apple cider and wine vinegar in the US but I couldn’t find any persimmon vinegar products online. Japanese food bloggers talk about the many health benefits of persimmon vinegar and they make it sound so easy to make. So I decided to give it a try.
It was already the end of December and almost the end of persimmon season when I decided to make this vinegar. I was lucky to meet someone who has a persimmon tree and who generously gave me some persimmons. Supposedly you can use any kind of persimmon, astringent or non-astringent, to make vinegar. There is really no mystery behind making persimmon vinegar as you can see from all the photos I took.
I put the persimmons in two different containers. One container had overly ripened persimmons and I had to discard some parts which some people had recommended not to use for vinegar making. However I didn’t like to waste what someone gave to me. It’s my experiment anyway, so I decided to separate the squishy persimmons from the regular ones.
I rinsed them to remove the dirt, but it’s important not to rinse too much since the fermentation process will be kicked off by the natural yeast and bacteria found on the persimmon skins. Then I stored them in containers that could breathe. I found amazing containers that were designed to store fermenting produce at a Korean market.
Some people add yeast to start the fermentation. However I stuck to the most simple and primitive way: Persimmons only. Nothing added. I occasionally mixed the squishy ones at the beginning. It seemed to quicken the alcohol fermentation process. However, when I strained it, even though it smelled like vinegar, it turned out to be weak vinegar with very low acidity. I was very disappointed. On the contrary, the one with the whole persimmons that I didn’t touch for over three months had high acidity and was comparable to my rice vinegar. It was a success!
If you are willing to try new kinds of vinegar, you can make this in your spare time and forget about it for 3 months before straining it. You’ll have to wait until this autumn season to buy fresh persimmons so I will try to remind you when I start to see persimmons at the store!