November 5, 2011 § 4 Comments
So yesterday I wrote about yuzu, today I will be writing about another Japanese fruit that I love: ume.
Ume is often translated into English as plum, but while it is from the same genus of trees (prunus) it is very unlike the plums that we know in the West. They are small, hard, and green when unripe; they are soft and yellow with a hint of red when ripe.
An important thing to know about ume is that they are poisonous. So don’t eat them unprocessed! When they are made into umeshu or ume jam correctly, they are no longer toxic, but keep the yummy looking fruits away from children!
Ume are abundant after the rainy season in Japan ( which is literally called plum rain) in late spring to early summer. During this time, all groceries begin to stock the supplies for making umeshu. Nearly everyone in Japan makes plum wine, and many older Japanese people have several very old jars sitting underneath their kitchen sinks getting older and more delicious with age. I made umeshu and the hardest part was waiting 10 months to taste it!
Umeshu has a thick consistency. While it is called plum wine, I would really think of it like a fruit liquor. It has a golden color and a very pungent taste. It can be drunk on the rocks or with tonic (a favorite of older Japanese men) and is thought to be good for digestion.
Umeshu (Plum wine)
- 2 1/4 lb unripe ume plums
- 2 lb rock sugar
- 7 1/2 cups shochu for umeshu (clear distilled spirit which contains 35 % alcohol), or vodka
- Wash ume and dry
- Remove stems using a bamboo stick or knife. This is important to remove toxins.
- Wash and sterilize large glass jar
- Layer ume and rock sugar in jar
- Pour shochu or vodka over sugar and plums
- Seal jar and store in dark, cool place
- For first month, rotate jar daily to aid aging process
- Enjoy after 10 months, but it is better to wait at least one year
November 3, 2011 § 2 Comments
Today I will tell you about one of my favourite fruits in the world; yuzu.
It is a type of East Asian citrus that looks similar to the child of a lemon and a grapefruit, but is supposedly a hybrid between the sour mandarin and Ichang papeda. The fruit itself is very sour and basically inedible, but the peel is amazingly fragrant.
Nothing else I have ever smelt or tasted has been like yuzu.
In Japan, yuzu comes into season in winter. It’s easy to tell because as soon as you enter the grocery store you are overwhelmed with the strong scent that emanates from the piles of fruit. There, during the winter solstice yuzu is added to hot baths to ward off sickness from the coming cold winter nights.
However my favorite thing to do is to make yuzu tea! It tastes amazing and it is often used to help cure colds and ease an upset stomach.
Yuzu cha (Yuzu tea)
- Gather several yuzu
- Peel and pith yuzu
- Discard Pith
- Section yuzu
- Create a simple syrup about equal to the amount of yuzu in wieght
- Layer yuzu flesh, peel, and simple syrup in a jar
- Wait one week
- Spoon out a bit of the yuzu cha into a cup, and cover with boiling water