In March, we see the beautiful ume (Japanese plum) blossoms. In May, the small, firm fruits start to appear in grocery stores.
The ume are typically packaged in measurements of 2 kilograms. They are also surrounded by bags of rock salt, large glass containers, and clear liquor.
These, my friends, are the essential ingredients of umeshu-Japanese plum wine.
The basic recipe calls for:
1 kg green ume
300-500 g white rock sugar
1800-2000 ml white liquor
Wash the plums well and pick out the tiny stems. Dry the plums and layer them with the rock sugar in the jar. Lastly, pour in your alcohol. Most people wait at least six months to start drinking their umeshu.
Some people say to prick the plums before putting them in the jar. Some people also say to swirl the jars once a week. Some people say that is all busy work and not necessary. You decide. I pricked the plums of one batch-an experiment to see if it makes a difference.
We made one with vodka, one with gin, and one with a generic Japanese white liquor. But there are many other popular varieties out there as well: black sugar, honey, brandy, etc.
Umeshu is an immensely popular drink in Japan. I usually drink mine on the rocks, but it is also popularly mixed with club soda. Both varieties are delicious. Sometimes, the drink will even be served with an alcohol soaked plum floating amidst the ice. I eat them. They are delicious!
I can't wait to try them!