Rainy Season Umeshu!
A quick look out the nearest window will probably confirm that its 梅雨 (tsuyu), or the rainy season. And besides the rain (obviously), the rainy season means its time to make umeshu! Ume is so strongly associated with the season that the word 梅雨 (tsuyu) literally means “ume rain”. And your local supermarket should certainly look as though it’s experienced an ume shower right about now. Most stores have put out umeshu making displays where you can easily find all the supplies needed to make your own deliciously
You will need:
1 kilogram Ume
青梅 (ao-ume) is the small, unripened green ume used to make umeshu. Try to find bright green fruit with no blemishes or yellowing, as this means it is ripening. Buy the ume the same day you plan on making your umeshu and avoid the temptation to nibble one. Apparently, unprocessed ume is mildly toxic!
500g to 1kg of Sugar
氷砂糖 (koori-zatou), literally ice sugar, is the rock sugar most commonly used for umeshu. The amount of sugar you add depends on how sweet you want your resulting umeshu. I err on the side of caution and use less simply because if you make it too sweet, there’s no fixing it, whereas if it’s not sweet enough you can always add more sugar. However, the less sugar you use the longer it will take for the umeshu to mature. Many people also choose to supplement honey for the sugar or use a combination of sugar and honey. (i.e. 1-2 cups of honey with 500g of rock sugar.
1800ml of Alcohol
ホワイトリカー (Howaito rikaa: white liquor) is most commonly used. It’s a clear, 35 proof liquor that is conveniently sold in 1.8 liter cartons. But white liquor isn’t your only option and if you want to make quick umeshu you can use a good quality vodka. Brandy can also be used and Suntory actually sells a 1.8 liter jug specifically for making fruit liqueur. It’s labeled 果実の酒用 (kajitsu no sake you: for fruit liqueurs).
Large Glass Jar
Easily found with umeshu supplies. They usually have a red lid and handle and have a double-seal. The above amounts would require a 4 liter jar. My jar is a 5 liter, which would also obviously work for the above amounts!
1.) Wash your glass jar well and allow to air dry
2.) Wash ume well (with a bit of soap) to make sure there is no pesticide residue. Allow ume to air dry or towel dry very thoroughly. It is possible that water on the fruit or in your jar could cause mold.
3.) Remove the stems and stem fragments from the ume even if they are very small. Fermented ume stem doesn’t taste so awesome.
4.) Start lining the bottom of your jar with the ume. Some people prick holes in the ume before adding them to the jar as they say it makes the process faster. Your decision.
5.) Once you have a bottom layer of ume add a few handfuls of the sugar. The goal is to create alternating layers of ume and sugar, so divide the sugar in a way that you can continue creating even layers.
6.) Once you have used up all your ume and sugar, pour in the alcohol. It’s important that the fruit is covered and if you follow the above ratios, it will be.
7.) Put the lids on, making sure they’re tightly sealed. And don’t forget to fill out the little label that comes with your jar so you remember the date you made your umeshu.
Store the jar in a dark place in the coolest room of your apartment/house. Six months is the standard waiting time on homemade umeshu, though it would be drinkable after only three or four. On the other hand, you could also let it steep for up to a year and have it ready to drink next tsuyu! The umeshu can be transferred to a clean bottle or left in the original jar if you don’t plan on making another batch right away. The wrinkly shriveled ume themselves are also delicious and can be used as garnish or yummy alcoholic snack. The liqueur will keep well unrefrigerated for a really, really long time. Really.
I think umeshu is best with lots and lots of ice or made into umeshu soda or umeshu sours! You’ll have plenty of it to experiment with making interesting cocktails