Cooking or creating drinks with umeboshi, buying/ pickling them?

Recently I got a box of umeboshi (pickled ume, or plum) from the local Japanese market. The flavors are quite subtle and sublime. In addition to the saltiness and the tartness, there is a good bit of fragrance and mineral-ness from the original plum fruit. In addition to eating it with plain rice like the Japanese traditionally do, I’d love to explore using it as a flavoring agent in cooking and drinks. Is anyone doing it? If so, how are you doing it? How are the results?

Also, does anyone pickle ume here? Given the relatively high cost of umeboshi, and the availability of ume in the local farmer’s market, I am interested in exploring pickling my own next year. If you have any tips to share, would love to hear them.

Alternatively for those who enjoy umeboshi by buying retail, what are smoe of your favorite sources/ brands for them?

Thanks!

I’ve had them come out great, and mediocre. It’s been awhile. Lots of info on the internet. I stopped making them because the local Asian market has had lousy quality ume, all bruised and unripe.

The key starting point is perfect, ripe, ume with no bruises, cuts, or damage of any type.

One of the benefits of making them yourself is you end up with the liquid which is ume vinegar, umezu. Also drying the fermented shiso leaves and use to make your own furikake with chile pepper, black pepper, sesame seeds, bonito, krill, anchovies, salt, sugar, etc.

I’ve pickled them the traditional way, packed tightly in jars with kosher salt after soaking in shochu or vodka to sanitize them, with or without the addition of red shiso leaves, which can sometimes be hard to find around me. After the ferment you then have to dry them. I’ve sun dried, and in a dehydrator at low temp. setting. I can’t remember which way was better.

These links seem to be pretty good.

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I have only had ume as umeshu (ume liquor) but am familiar with the chinese version.

In Vietnamese cuisine, we use it to make a refreshing soda drink. I love the sweet/sour/salty combination. We also make a soda with salt-preserved lemons. Next time you’re at a Viet restaurant, look for “soda xi muoi” and “soda chanh muoi”.

Thanks- this is great info. [quote=“JMF, post:2, topic:8091”]
The key starting point is perfect, ripe, ume with no bruises, cuts, or damage of any type.
[/quote]What criteria do you use to judge ripeness for ume?

What if you don’t? The umeboshi I saw in Japanese markets are all pretty wet looking. I just assumed at the time that the salt in the umes retards the spoilage. (Although I read somewhere that nowadays some ‘low-salt’ umeboshi needs refrigeration because of the low salt content.) Or are the wet looking store-bought umeboshi just dried one immersed in liquid again?

How did you find the taste of your own umeboshi vs the store-bought ones?

I can’t say I am an expert on making umeboshi. Just done it a handful of times to because I have tried to ferment just about every fruit and vegetable I can. Still have to get around to making my own soy sauce and tamari, which are planned for late this winter or in the spring. Fish and oyster sauces are up in the air. They have to wait until I move back out in a rural area, or start a new business and get a warehouse.

Ripe to me means they are sort of a yellow/orange color. Not green. They are not soft, but pretty firm, but not rock hard like the green ones which are all I have seen the past few years.

Yes, the wet commercial ones are fermented, dried, then put back in the liquid from the fermentation.

Ones I made came out good, and bad. I liked my lower salt content ones, done in a 2% and 5% salt, instead of the traditional 10-12%+. Making low salt umeboshi was difficult at first. I found they need a day or so soak in high proof spirits to sanitize them. I even tried a few day soak in a brine, then drained and packed in salt. My main problems came from using green, bruised ume. They tended to rot.

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If anyone in the NYC area is in the mood to try making umeboshi or umeshu, try the big H Mart stores in Flushing (the ones on Northern Boulevard) for fresh ume. I’ve spent the last week making both.

For umeboshi, the justhungry recipe works fine. Note that if you can’t get red shiso leaves until later, that’s OK – when you can get the shiso leaves, massage kosher salt into them, rinse them, salt them again & add to the umeboshi in your pickling container. I usually dry my umeboshi for a few days, after they have pickled for at least a couple of months, & then return them to the ume vinegar. They keep indefinitely if in a cool place or the fridge. You can dry the shiso leaves & crumble them as a condiment, too.

For umeshu, sterilize some large jars (the dishwasher will do, & so will a good rinse with shochu or vodka). Soak the ume in cold water for a couple of hours or overnight & take out the calyx (? not sure what it’s called actually – the little black bit at the stem) from each with a skewer or toothpick. Dry off the ume & fill your jars between 1/3 to 1/2 full of them. Add rock sugar (I use a scant handful for a quart jar – you can always add more when you decant) (Patel Brothers & other South Asian shops have rock sugar; the smaller crystals are fine & so are the big lumps). Most recipes call for adding the sugar & ume in layers, but it makes exactly no difference that I can tell. Fill the bottle with shochu or vodka (not rotgut, but need not be top quality). Put the lid on tightly & shake it up once a day for a couple of days, until the sugar dissolves. Store for six months to a year (a year is much better), & decant. You can re-use the ume for another batch, but the used ones are less flavorful, so adjust the amount accordingly (about double the proportion). If you have ume that are intact & look generally good, but have the odd tiny black spot or otherwise are not ideal for umeboshi, they will still make good umeshu.

Additional choices if you have any extras: infuse in rice vinegar or shoyu for a couple of months, or infuse in miso for at least a month with some rock sugar or even Sugar in the Raw. Miso flavored with ume is great on noodles & as a glaze.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold