Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Ume are in season now. Ume are called Japanese plums, though I've heard that they are more closely related to apricots than actual plums.
In any case, these plums were meant for preserving, so that's just what I'll do.
Of course, the easiest way to preserve something is to submerge it in high proof alcohol and leave it there.
Umeshuu (plum liquor) is traditionally made with shouchuu, but I live in an area with a dense Korean population and thought that soju would make a poor substitute. I opted instead to use some vodka that was lying around my house.
The recipe I had called for a two to one ratio of plums to rock sugar (I used German rock sugar because it was what was handy). Then you fill your container enough just to cover the plums, making sure to leave half the bottle space empty. Why? Because the plums give up their liquid and will eventually explode a fully filled bottle.
Leave this in a DCP (dark, cool place) for three months, take out the plums (which I hear are a real treat) and return to its DCP for one to three years.
Now for the tricky part. If you have any interest in Japan at all (which you might not) then you are at least familiar with the sight, if not the name umeboshi. Umeboshi is that red, sour ball in your rice ball. It is the quintessential Japanese pickle.
You see, I am one of those people who is bad at waiting. Instant gratification more often than not is the biggest factor in my decisions.
So pickling? Better damn well be worth it. This is a project that will take roughly three months for the first stage, and up to three years for second.
I carefully hand selected the unblemished plums (the blemished ones went into the vodka) and carefully used a tooth pick to... pick out the stems. Then I washed them in several changes of water, making sure not to bruise them. I left them soaking over night to remove some of the bitterness, then dunked them in more vodka (I'm serious running out guys) and prepared a ceramic container by wiping it down with, you guessed it, vodka. I then weighed out around fifteen percent of the weight of the plums in course salt and layered it with the plums into my sterilized container. I put a weight (a duck taped plastic container full of water into a plastic sandwich bag) and will now wait for two weeks for the umesuu (plum vinegar) to ooze out.
As soon as my akashiso is big, I'm supposed to tear it into little bits and add it to the mix as well.
Wish me luck because I think I'm going to need it.