Ume-Shigoto Part 2

梅雨 = Tsuyu is a Japanese phrase means rainy season. The first letter 梅 is a Chinese character meaning plum and 雨 meaning rain. Tsuyu in Japan is usually starts around mid June and last about a month. During this season, it just rain. Not a strong rain but misty showers all day long. This misty showers are suppose to make the plums grow in full, so maybe that’s why the rainy season in Japan is call Tsuyu, Plum rain. (They are more theories about this. )

I’ve been living in Japan for over 50 years, been through this muggy Tsuyu season a lot of time but in about the pass 10 years (?), the image of the Tsuyu had change. In the pass five years, Tsuyu had changed from a light rain shower into a Asian rain storm. Strong and wild. The Tsuyu season doesn’t last a month long anymore. This change is said to do with the climate change but summer in Japan is getting nastier year by year.

Anyway, back to the plums, I had done the step 1 of the pickling process on the third week of June. The liquid of the plum raised above the plum in about 4 days (as I planned) and I removed half of the weight and let the bucket sit and wait till the rainy season was over. This year the rainy season started around mid June so I was planning to go to step 2 at around end of July or if the weather wasn’t good enough, maybe around the beginning of August.

In just about a week, the weather broadcast announce the end of the rainy season…..WAIT!!!! It’s still June!

I checked up the weather report, no sign of rain for a couple of weeks. The temperature is rising day by day, the humidity is low… OK, it’s time for the step 2 to begin. ( I could of waited till August but (1) want to be done with this process, (2) In my experience, when the rainy season ends this soon, you might get a wet summer— so if the weather is good—get it going.)

Part 2 : What you need.

  1. You are going to dry out the plums in the sun, so something to lay out the plums in the sun. (look at the picture above for some hints and find something in your country that resembles it.)
  2. You will need 3~4 hot sunny days to stay home and care for the plums while drying out.
  3. You will need a large jar to store the dried plums.

The process is pretty easy:

  1. Place the plum on the tray and let it sun bath. I usually start around at 9 in the morning till around 3 in the afternoon. While the plums are drying, turn the plums so you get all side dried.
  2. While the plums are sun bathing, place the bucket (which the plum was pickling) in the sun and let the plum vinegar bath the sun too. (It is suppose to sanitize to vinegar too.)
  3. After the drying process is done for the day, place the plums back into the bucket.
  4. Repeat (1)~(3) for 1 to 2 more days. Each day in the sun, the plums harden but yet the inner portion gets really soft.

These are the plums from the second day of sun bathing. Compared to the first day, the skin is firmer but it’s really soft inside.

These are from the third day. As you can see, the skin is more wrinkled and more tougher but yet inside is very, very soft. Tough skin makes it harder to break therefore it preserves more better, beautifully. I can pinch these yet the skin won’t break and when this happens, it means you are done with the drying process.

So, I decided to finish up the drying process on the third day. If I decided to continue the drying up to tomorrow, I will pick up the plum in around 3pm while it’s still hot and sunny and place it back to the bucket but since I decided to end the drying process, I will keep the plum drying until it’s dark outside to let the plum catch some evening dew. I will gather the plums back into my house at night and will proceed to storing them…( Will continue to part 3)

Also don’t forget to check our instagram for the plum making reel !

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