Today I’m going to be making traditional “Umeboshi.”
Umeboshi is a staple Japanese food, as you may already know.
Super sour and salty, has a unique flavor. It’s our secret of longevity.
People buy Umeboshi these days, but I stick on homemade.
This is the last “Ume-Shigoto” of the year. Let’s get started a year journey with me!
It is a kind of pickles that goes well with rice or sometimes we use as a seasoning.
For me, it is more like natural medicine rather than pickles. Umeboshi has a tremendous health effect. I will talk about it later, for now, let’s get started with a long journey with me!
2kg Ume: ripe yellow Japanese Plum
15% of coarse sea salt of the total weight→a little less than 300g
200~300g Red Shiso leaves
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
Shochu (or other high alcoholic content alcohol with no taste) to sterilize the pot
1. Umeboshi is made of ripe yellow Japanese plum which is closely related to apricot. These are in the market at the beginning of June to July. These are a different kind of plum which I used for plum wine and syrup.
Ume in yellow, ripe and soft to the touch and smell like peach: You can go on a process, but greenish Umes are not.
Greenish Ume goes into a paper bag until turns yellow for a day or two.
Since the plum would ripe so quickly, let’s prepare the yellow one first.
Wash Ume and pat dry.
Sprinkle some salt from the recipe, and cover with a piece of plastic. Place a weight on top, set aside until the other Ume turns yellow.
2. The next day, if the greenish Ume turns yellow, it’s OK to go.
Wash Ume gently, changing the water several times.
If you find an Ume with a dark spot, or too ripe, take out and discard.
Drain the Ume and par dry. Take off the stem end by using a skewer.
3. Before we pickle the Ume, we have to sterilize the container. This is the crucial part of Umeboshi making process. Ume is pickle in a pot for about a month at room temperature in Japanese weather, which is high in humidity.
Pour boiling water all over the pot. Turn it upside down on a rack until dry off the moisture.
Then, wipe off with the alcohol.
3. Take a medium size bowl, put your clean Ume in. Sprinkle a dash of Shochu, or other booze, to prevent mold from growing. Toss to coat.
Add in salt to barely coat the surface. Transfer to the container.
Continue working in small batches.
For the Ume from the previous day, add some more salt, and put it into the container.
Sprinkle the rest of the salt.
Place a sterilized dish directly onto the Ume. Put the weight on it to evenly pickled. Cover with a lid and leave it at a cool dark place until the moisture comes out. If the Ume is ripe enough, It’s going to take a week or so. If not, it will take longer.
5. While we are waiting, Let’s prepare the red shiso leaves. The red shiso leaves dye the Umeboshi to its signature color red. You can make Umeboshi without using red shiso leaves.
I like the aroma and the color of red shiso, so I have never skipped it.
The red shiso is in the market at the very limited of time, so please buy it if you find one. I am sure it is difficult to find, I recommend to grow it by yourself.
Wash under cold running water.
Usually, the red shiso leaves are dirty, so wash vigourously like washing a towel or something. You can see the dirt sink in the bowl like this.
Spin the red shiso leaves in a salad spinner and take the excess moisture out.
Take half of the red shiso leaves in a large bowl, add in a tablespoon of salt from the recipe. Rub and press to make it soft, to remove the bitter component in the red shiso leaves.
Once the red shiso leaves soft and shrink, add in the rest of the leaves.
Sprinkle one tablespoon of the salt, then rub to soften the leaves.
Squeeze to remove the liquid and discard.
Put it back in the bowl, add in the rest of the salt. Rub to remove the bitter liquid one more time.
I always do this twice to remove bitterness as much as I can.
Squeeze tightly, and keep it in a fridge until the Ume is ready.
6. Let’s take a look at salted Ume. If the Ume submerged in the liquid of its own, go on to the next step. The liquid is called “Shira- Umezu.” Literally means “White plum vinegar.”
7. Here comes a fun part.
Take your prepared red shiso leaves out from the fridge, and combine with the liquid. Ladle over the red shiso leaves and loosen with your hand. Ladle more liquid, and it will turn into purplish pink.
Put them onto the Ume, and place the dish and the weight again.
After a week or so, check how it goes.
It is not dyed yet. But it looks fine! Let’s change the weight to 1kg to dye slowly.
Leave it for about a month, until the Japanese rainy season is over. Which means around the 20th of July.
8. Now, we are going to sun dry the Ume. Umeboshi is translated into “Sun-dried Plum” After sun drying, you can call it Umeboshi.
Before sun drying, check the weather forecast to choose the sunny day in three straight days. Yep, we are going to sun-dry Ume for three days.
First, take out red shiso leaves and squeeze out the moisture. Place onto a bamboo mesh tray in a single layer.
Drain Ume, and line them on a bamboo mat.
Line the leftover Umeboshi from the last year at the same time. You can keep it longer if you have one.
Let them sun-dry at the sunny spot. We will sun-dry for three days.
This is called “Aka Umezu” means red plum vinegar. Let it sun-dry as well.
Flip them over once or twice a day.
Take them inside at night.
Repeat the process for the next day and the third day.
The red shiso leaves make an excellent Furikake (accompaniment of rice). When it dries out completely, process until powdered. Pass through a sieve to remove the stiff vein. Pack in a small bag to preserve.
I am using a sushi mat placed on cardboard to sun dry Umeboshi.
I used to have a large bamboo mesh tray, made only for sun drying Ume. But I come to think it’s not good to keep kitchen tools that occupy a space even if I use it 3 days a year! Lol.
But wait, why we sun-dry Ume?
Here is why.
First, sunlight disinfects Ume to preserve well and dries out excess moisture. After three days of sun-drying, the Ume flesh gets a little firm on the surface, and moist on the inside. The texture becomes better and suitable to keep all year long.
Before transfer to a container, give it a gentle massage to separate the fibers around the stone. It becomes much easy to eat!
These are the traditional Umeboshi.
I make “Sweet and sour Ume,” a kind of new style, at the same tine.
It’s not too sour, and the flesh is moist and juicy.
Pour the red Ume vinegar to cover. Add 5% rock sugar of total weight.
The rock sugar dissolves in the vinegar slowly, so the Ume flesh won’t shrink.
Let the both Umeboshi leave at a cool dark place about a year to “Age.”
Before aging, it tastes direct sourness and saltiness. After aging, it feels milder and deeper in tastes. But to tell you the truth, I have never tried the one before aging, so I am not sure about this.
You can make “Red ginger pickles” with leftover Red Ume vinegar. Slice ginger thinly, preferably fresh new ginger. Dip in boiling water quickly to remove the pungent taste. Transfer to a clean container and pour the Red Ume Vinegar. Marinate one week, and it’s good to go. It will last about a year. You can use it to your Okonomiyaki or Takoyaki condiment.
Let me show you how to enjoy it.
Put Umeboshi on top of a bowl of rice. Before the Japanese economical grows, our previous generations eat this kind of meal. Rice and pickles. Umeboshi is the saltiest pickles in Japan, you can eat a whole bowl of rice with one Umeboshi. Umeboshi contains lots of nutrients, for example, citric acid, the anti-inflammatory property, helping digestions and improve metabolism.
Umeboshi of last year or older is cooked with rice in summer. Umeboshi gives an antibacterial effect to steamed rice.
It’s always a good idea adding Umeboshi to teriyaki sauce in summer. Just a little bit of Umeboshi gives a nice kick to teriyaki sauce.
Place on top of the rice ball and bind with a piece of nori. There you have an open face Onigiri.
For the rest of the rice, shred the Umeboshi into tiny pieces. Add scrambled egg which made into small pieces and bonito flakes. Toss to combine. Add a dash of soy sauce if it’s not season enough. Make into a ball and wrap in a piece of nori.
There you have two kinds of rice balls with a hint of Umeboshi. These are for my son’s lunch!
Last but not least, Ume-cha.After eating the flesh, pour hot green tea over the stone. Drinking this tea will stabilize your blood sugar after the meal. So refreshing!
Maybe you don’t have the ingredients in your area, but I believe good to know our traditional Umaboshi making process!