Ume-Shigoto Part 3

From left : Umeboshi 2022, Umeboshi 2021, plum vinegar 2022 and plum syrup 2021.

This will be the last from the 3 parts of Ume-Shigoto post. Today will be about the storing the plums and how to use them.

Continuation from the last post Ume-Shigoto Part 2, we are done with the drying out the pickled plum in the sun for about 3 – 4 days. On the final drying process, as I told you in the last post, instead picking up the plums into the house around, 3-4pm (afternoon, when the sun is still out and hot), keep the plum outside till it’s dark and let the plum pick-up some evening dew. It may even release some moisture out at night and that is what we want. (Bring in the bucket with the plum vinegar in too !)

All you need todo is to place the plums in the large jar as pictured above but there are several options you may consider before you move right into action.

  • A) Place the plum as it is into the jar.
  • B) Repeat the above process but on each layer add a pinch of sugar.
  • C) Dip the dried plum into it’s vinegar then place it into the jar.
  • D) Repeat the above process but on each layer add a pinch of sugar.

This year ( the left one in the picture above) I did the C version. In the B & D version you add a pinch of sugar to each layer but it doesn’t make the plum sweet at all ( The plums are very, very sour and that bit of sugar won’t do anything) but it seemed to make the vinegar (the liquid released from the plum) a bit more thicker, which glazes the plum and makes it look more beautiful so if you want to go with the sugar version, that’s what you are aiming for. The difference between A & C is when placing the plum into the bucket, you add a bit of vinegar of not. While keeping the plum in the jar, the plums will release it’s own liquid so dipping it into the vinegar seems useless (Jar with the red plum second from the left were not dipped in the vinegar and you can see the liquid forming on the bottom) but, if your plum seems too dry and want to add extra moisture, it is alway ok to dip the plum in the liquid before storing and if you really want a soft finish, you can also store the plum in the liquid.

Once the plums are all settled in the jar, it is best from 6 month to a year onward. But to be true, it’s good in day one too. It’s really sour but, I made a rice ball with freshly dried (still warm) plum and it was truly amazing ! Some people just can’t handle the sourness so for the rest, storing for about 6 to a year, make the sourness milder.

What do we do with the plum vinegar? (The third bottle from left in the picture above) Use them as like any vinegar! They are the best natural sanitizer so store some in a spray bottles and spray the bento box before stuffing them. Wet you hands with these vinegar before making a rice balls, make other pickles using these vinegars, dress them in salad like any other vinegar.

Red and White Umeboshi (pickled plum), what’s the difference? The difference is adding a red shiso leaf of not. Red shiso leaf are available during the same season of plum pickling so it’s very common pickling the plums with the shiso leaf. You cannot just put the raw shiso leaf and pickle it with the plum, we need a little preparations but for one who want to make a deep red color Umeboshi, it’s a good option. This year I omitted the shiso leaf and just made the plain white version so I can use the plums into my southeast asian recipes but if I’ll go with the red version, I’ll post how to prepare the shiso leaf for pickling.

Pickled plums = Umeboshi, how shall we eat them ? There are endless ways to use umeboshi in the Japan. The simplest one is in the rice ball. Umeboshi itself is very sour but when combined with the Japanese rice, the sweetness of the rice balances off the sourness so nicely. In the same line, Ochazuke is good for umeboshi beginners too. In a small rice bowl, put some rice and top it with a umeboshi. Then pour a unsalted hot broth (bonito broth called dashi in Japan) in to the rice bowl. With the chopstick, you slowly loosen the plum into the rice, don’t mix them too much, and eat the rice-soup just as it is. When I’m feeling tied or without any apetite…I make a Ume-shoyu drink. I will deseed one plum and chop them into a paste. Add it into a mug. I add 2 to 3 teaspoon of soy-sauce (soy-sauce must be naturally fermented for at least 3 yrs) and mix the plum paste with the soy-sauce. Then I add hot bancha tea (I use organically grown tea leaves which are stored for more than 3 yrs before roasting) to the cup, mix it well and it’s the most delicious soup-tea and perfect cup of drink to break my fasting. There are more, more and more to the benefits and recipe for the Umeboshi and I’ll try to post it whenever I’m cooking.

The plums stores in room temp forever. You can keep them for years. There are even 100yrs old umeboshi ! I hope you enjoy a little bit of Japanese culture and will be back soon for more post. Thanks for reading!


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