July 24, 2012
As some of you may remember, I made umeboshi (pickled plum) last year, while Kayoko & Co. were doing the same on the west coast. I used yellow plums instead of Japanese plums, while the west coast group used real Japanese plums, but pickled while they were still green and unripe. Both results were ok, but I had to retry it this year.
During the month of June, you sometimes see Japanese plums at Japanese grocery stores. When you do, ask the store people to sell you THE ENTIRE STOCK. I did exactly that. They only had eight 250g packs, and I bought them all.
Then I read many sites about how to make pickled plums, and I followed the rules pretty closely.
Rule of thumb: Never pickle green plums. Wait until they are fragrant, soft (not too soft) and yellow.
So I waited green plums to turn yellow, and very fragrant. They look green here but they are fragrant and in person they were a lot more yellow than green.
Pickling method is exactly the same as last year. Once you wash them, take out the tips, then wash them in vodka, roll them in salt (2kg of plum, 18% of salt is 360 gram), place them in a container, place a weight on it and set it in cool place for about a month.
In just a couple of days, the liquid (we call it umezu, which is plum vinegar) will fill up the whole container, and come up above the plums. This is a very good sign of pickling process is going in the right direction.
Fast forward for a month, it’s time to dry them. Unlike Kayoko’s batch last year, I didn’t bother to add red shiso. It does add a cute red tint to plums, but it’s pretty difficult to find red shiso, and it’s totally not necessary so I omitted it.
One snafu did occur. I used my water weight method by filling ziploc bag with water and placing it directly on top of plums, and of course water leaked out of the bag! I waited and see if it was ok, but mold started to grow. 18% salt is a safe way to avoid grow, but due to the dilution from the weight, mold grew. I took all the plums out, washed them in vodka, strained the liquid, then added a bit more salt. At this point, I have no idea how much salt I put in, but I wanted to make sure that the mold would stop growing.
Over the weekend, I dried them under the strong NYC sun. It’s amazing how the power of the sun makes a huge difference in umeboshi-making.
When I took plums out of the container, it smelled fruity/salty, and looked dark yellow.
After one day of drying, it started to shrink a little, and the color was turning a bit more brown. Make sure you turn them so that all the sides get exposed to the sun.
This is after 1 day of drying. It started to shrink, and salt crystals can be seen on outer skins.
Midday day two:
After two days of drying, it looks umeboshi-like, and smells very much like umeboshi.
This is definitely the real deal umeboshi. It’s amazing how they turn color from darkish yellow to the pale brown umeboshi color. Nowadays, you can find less salty, sweet kinds of umeboshi at the grocery stores. These are not legitimate for us Wakayamans (Wakayama prefecture is known for its umeboshi, as well as other plum products). It must be salty, and fill your mouth with puckery tartness.
Next year, I will make more, and make sure that the weight isn’t directly touching the plums.
This year’s umeboshi were definitely a success. You can eat a full bowl of rice with one piece of this baby.