Everyone knows that Japan’s famous for their almost perfect fruits – the $20 strawberries you see in Cold Storage, to the $89 melons on display in Meidi-ya – don’t tell me that you haven’t been tempted to get one of them before! And the best place to get these fruits… is in Japan itself!
However, this time round the fruits I carried back weren’t for immediate consumption… but for making Umeshu! Yes, they’re Japanese green plums, available for a short period of time in summer! They ripen so fast that Japanese scramble to make umeshu once purchased, and they’re also sadly, not readily available in Singapore – your best bet would be handcarrying back from Japan, or waiting for Meidi-ya to stock them – they do, but at almost twice the cost of what I paid in Japan, at $13.50+ per 420 grams.
So of course I had to grab 2kg of it back right?!
In the Okinawan supermarket over at Aeon mall, it only cost me 1058yen after tax for a kilogram of green, unripen ume. And with the display they had, it was obvious that the green ume was only for making umeshu, umeboshi, ume syrup… in fact it even comes with instructions!
I grabbed 2 bags and I did not realize that they ripened THIS fast. Basically they were super green on 4th of June, smelt great on the 5th of June and when I got back on 6th of June and took a peek at them, THEY WERE THIS SHADE OF YELLOW which had me clutching my head and going “Nooooooo!”
The very next day, I went out to get the ingredients needed to make my own Umeshu!
Now, the recipes online ALL suggeted making umeshu with shochu – but nobody ever specified which type, and shochu comes in many variations – it could be distilled from rice, barley, potato, buckwheat (these 4 are the common ones), and even shiso!
However, you can also use – Chinese Rice Wine (白酒), which has higher alcohol content or Vodka. In fact, from what a friend told me (and insisted), they usually use Chinese Rice Wine. I don’t mind trying out all the shochus – which is what I did, my only regret was not getting more ume to try another two alcohol options out! You can choose whichever alcohol concentration you like, but the higher the better, as the rock sugar halves the alcohol content.
The best place to get your shochu would be Meidi-ya Liang Court, which offers an extensive selection of shochu AND provides translated tags so that you know what you’re buying! I love that.
Alternatively, you can also try IPPIN, because their imo shochu is SO good! Ayumi-san from Ippin Cafe Bar let me try her shochu and it was so good I wanted it on the spot for my 4th umeshu bottling.
(P.S. – The bottle above isn’t airtight. Please don’t purchase this.)
So anyway, my recipe for a bottle (1.1L jar) would be:
- 400g ume
- 200g rock sugar (usually half of how much ume you have)
- 400 – 500ml shochu (some people use 900ml, but I guess my jug’s pretty small…)
These are the places you can get your airtight containers from:
- Crate and Barrel (best selection)
- Isetan (They sell the ones made specially for making umeshu – $20+ for a 4L jar!)
And the brands I bought and REALLY like (both happen to be German brands):
- Weck Canning Jars (approx $10.95 for a 1L jar)
- Leifheit (approx $18 for 1L jar)
So anyway, here are the steps to follow!
- Wash your jars, dry them
- Wipe clean with shochu
- Wash your ume (max 2-3 minutes as this post states that ume absorbs water)
- Discard the mouldy, rotten or overly bruised ume
- Pluck out the stems of the selected ume with a toothpick
- Prick the ume with a fine needle a few times, this helps with the release of the enzymes and flavor (I used a fork, and a chef said that if the hole is too big it’ll end up developing too tart a taste)
- Layer your ume and rock sugar till about 3/4 height of the jar
- Pour shochu till it covers the ume
- Seal and keep in a dark place – let steep for 6 months, and it will be ready for tasting in 1 year’s time!
And you’re all done!