When the blossoms on our peach tree bloom, I know it's spring time which means it's ume time. Prized in Asia and the Middle East, ume can be found in Persian, Kosher and Japanese markets. Eaten raw by some, ume are often dried and salted or, in the case of umeshu, used to flavor a neutral spirit like vodka or.
The article described how to turn ume (Japanese plums) into umeshu (Japanese plum wine). The process was simple. Buy ume, wash them, pull out the little stems, place in a large glass jar, add Japanese rock sugar and a large bottle of vodka, put in a cool, dark place and come back in a year.
Now I was on the hunt for ume. I found them at Marukai, at Iranian markets and downtown at a farmers market near the Los Angeles Public Library Main Branch.
Because I had made Limoncello, the idea of waiting a year appealed to me. And the added benefit of putting out very little effort added to what seemed like fun.
When we visited Yabu, our favorite Japanese restaurant, I told the waitstaff that I was going to make umeshu. They loved the idea. It turned out, when they were growing up, umeshu was a liquor made by their grandmothers.
When they yearned for a memory of home combined with a tasty cocktail, without grandmother's umeshu, they turned to store-bought umeshu. That did not compare to their childhood memories.
They also told me was that after the hard green ume spends at least a year bathing in the vodka, the hard green fruit would become sweetly edible.
Serving the fruit with the spirit is a nice touch. Kind of an alcoholic fruit punch.