I’ve been super excited to share this project with you all and it’s only been….7 months in the waiting. Hahahahahahah CRIES. But for real, it turned out fantastic so there is nothing for me to cry about. Around April-June in the grocery stores in Japan you’ll start seeing huge jars, boxed shochu, and piles of edible green plums start piling up. Our first year in Japan I really really really wanted to try my hand at making Umeshu but it was a bit too overwhelming. I was determined to step out of my comfort bubble and to try my hand at it this year so I fumbled around the grocery store, bought WAYYYYY too many bags of sugar and nervously headed home on my bicycle. After reading and watching a million guides to making Umeshu I finally just went for it. Turns out it is a lot easier than I expected. The big part is really sanitizing the jars properly but since I used to make jam and jelly with my Grandaddy and Nana, I already knew that this was a critical step not to be messed with.
I hope you can get the chance to try out this recipe, whether it be with Shochu or with a different white alcohol, please let me know how it turns out. Oh also, the key with the Japanese Ume plum is that it is unripe, rock hard, inedibly bitter and sour. If you want to try this with local plums from your country, just make sure you get really unripe plums or the final product may fail. Also, many people make double batches and just open one after 6 months but leave the other to keep steeping for up to one year.
Also, if you don’t want to make a batch the size I did, just follow the instructions of layering the same way I did with whatever size jar you want to use. Just remember, you’ll be waiting a long time for it to be ready so making a tiny batch may not be worth the wait. “Ah yes, I made one glass for a 7 month wait”.
Martina’s Umeshu Recipe 梅酒
5L Jar (washed + sanitized)
2.2lbs (1kg) Japanese Green Ume Plums
1.8L Shochu + extra splash (or other unflavoured white alcohol that has a minimum of 35% alcohol content)
1KG + 1/4cup of Rock Sugar
1. Soak all the plums in a huge bowl of cool water for around 20 minutes.
2. Using scalding hot water (or if you have a dishwasher on mega-super hot death mode but no soap) clean the jar and lids. This is the same rigorous sanitization process that is used for making jam or perseveres.
3. Using shochu or a high-proof alcohol, wipe down the jar and lids again paying special attention to tiny cracks and folds.
4. Scrub the plums for dirt using a brand new sponge and pay attention for any rotten or mouldy looking plums. As you clean the plums, put them onto clean kitchen towel to dry.
5. Using a toothpick or bamboo skewer, pop out the stems.
6. Once the stem is popped out, drop the plum into your now totally sanitized jar.
7. After a layer of plums covers the bottom of the jar, sprinkle on a layer of rock sugar. Continue this process until you’re out of plums.
8. Pour your shochu until the plums are totally submerged. If a plum is sticking out, it will rot.
9. Place your jar in a cool place to steep for 6 months minimum. If you leave it in the fridge, the sugar will never breakdown and the plums won’t properly release their juices so aim for a cool cupboard, shed, or pantry.
10. For the first few days, give the jar a gentle swirl and after that you can leave it alone.
11. When your Umeshu is ready, it should be a light golden colour and there shouldn’t be any chunks of sugar floating in it.