June is not only a month for the brides but the right time for making umeshu/梅酒 in Shizuoka, and in the whole of Japan!
Ume/Japanese plums hav appeared since the last week of May as this is also the season for makeing umeboshi/梅干/pickled Japanese plums.
First of all one has to buy his/her plums green, clean and firm. Choose a batch with no scars on the skin.
Lay them in a dry place (no need to put them under the sun) on a piece of cloth until they ripen to a nice yellow/red.
Gently clean them under running cold water. Pick off the stem petal part and wipe them dry. If you want your ume wrinkled and small, use them as they are. Now if you want your plums fat and juicy to eat out of the umshu as dessert, prickle them with a clean toothpick in 5 or 6 spots. That will allow the plums to soak in the umeshu!
As for sugar, buy some good koorizato/ice-sugar/氷砂糖 if you are in Japan. Abroad, choose a clean white sugar, although brown sugar could prove very interesting, but I cannot guarantee the colour!
As for the proportions, this is my personal preference (experiment!):
-Sugar: 1 kg
-Plums: 1 kg
-Shochu: 2 bottles (720ml each/4 “go” in Japanese)
-Japanese sake: 2 bottles (720ml each/4 “go” in Japanese)
If you live in Japan, try to keep it local as much as you can!
Cheap umeshu is made with “white liqueur”. I avoid it like the plagure for two reasons: 1) very low alcohol contents, 2) it is nothing less than “reprocessed alcohol” and simply doesn’t know how, when and with what it is made!
Be a bit extravagant and create a potent and sweet nectar with the accompanying dessert (the plums!)!
Above is what I used this time (from left to right):
-Tokubetsu Honjyozo sake, Kikuyoi, by Aoshima Brewery in Fujieda City.
-Tokubetsu Honjyozo sake, Suginishiki, by Sugii Brewery in Fujieda City.
-Shochu (rice), En, by Takashima Brewery in Numazu City. This shochu is made with the white lees of premium sake and then matured for 2 years inside sherry casks imported from Spain!
-Shochu (rice), Acha no Tsubome, by Hana no Mai Brewery in Hamamatsu City.
-Drop the sugar in the glass “jug”.
-Place all the plums delicately on top. Don’t throw them in!
-First pour all the shochu.
-Top with all the sake.
-Tighly close the jug.
-Store the umeshu in a dark place away from high temperature sources. Do not leave in the fridge. Ambient temperature of 15~25 degrees Celsius is best (in my opinion!).
The sugar will take at least 6 months to completely dissolve.
The plums will slowly sink to the bottom.
Move the contents around gently once a month by swirling the jug (do not open it!).
Once the sugar is completely dissolved, the plums have all sunk to the bottom and have become the same colour as the liqueur (about 8~10 months), it is then ready to be savoured although one could wait even longer for better maturity!
Enjoy on plenty of ice.
Naturally it can be used in many recipes from sauces to desserts!
I have a special fondness for fat and juicy umeshu plums!
Bazooka Gourmet will most feel compelled to comment! LOL