June is the season for Japanese plums (Ume/梅) in Japan. Having already posted a recipe for Umeshu (梅酒) or plum wine, I decided to go for recipe that’s seldom found outside of Japan, known as Ume Sour (梅サワー). Outside of Japan, Ume Sour tends to refer to a cocktail blend of some kind that contains Umeshu or Ume bitters. However, in Japan, Ume refers to a sweet drink that consists of Japanese plums steeped in vinegar.
Just like Umeshu, the process and ingredients to make this is simple so the quality of the ingredients will reflect strongly in the final product. The recipe consists of Japanese plums, vinegar of your choice and rock sugar. The vinegar you choose in this recipe will be the main flavouring agent besides the plums themselves so choose wisely. The preparation method, ageing and storing is also basically the same as Umeshu. It can be drunk after 3 months of being made but is best after 6 months of ageing. It should be stored in a dark place and can be help indefinitely provided you strain out the plums after 9 months (if not the plums start to breakdown into the Ume Sour, releasing their tannins and imparting a bitter flavour).
As your Ume Sour ages, its taste mellows out and becomes less and less astringent, just like ageing a wine. It also gently oxidises as you open and close the lid, contributing to the development of flavour. Again, like Umeshu, rock sugar is used instead of granulated sugar as it slowly dissolves over time, thus mixing into the flavour of the wine. I’ve been told to if you use granulated sugar it works but you need to shake the content of the jar quite often which is probably not worth the effort.
To consume, you can drink a shot glass of it just like you would drink vinegar for health, or it can be served in glasses on the rocks. It also works well in cocktails.
Ume Sour (梅サワー)
- 1kg of Green Japanese Plums
- 1000L of Vinegar of your choice
- 600g of Rock Sugar
- Check the quality of each individual fruit, remove any fruits that are bruised or starting to rot as they risk ruining your entire batch of wine.
- Carefully use the tip of a paring knife or a toothpick to remove the ends of the stems on the tip of the fruit. This should be easy to do.
- Wash the plums in cold water to remove any dirt on them. Be careful not to bruise them while washing.
- Pour hot water into the glass jar you are using, close the lid and shake the jar to clean it. Pour away the hot water and wipe dry.
- Add in a layer of the large plums at the bottom followed by a layer of white rock sugar. Repeat until everything is in the jar.
- Pour in the vinegar/vinegars into the jar.
- Leave in a cool, shady spot for 6 to 9 months before drinking.
- After 9 months, strain out the plums.
- Some recipes says to soak the plums overnight to remove some of the astringency in the plums but the plums also absorb water over time which will dilute the final taste of your product so a quick wash will do.
- Dirt gets easily trapped in the stem ends on the fruit which might contaminate the wine, which is why we remove them.
- Sunlight causes the plums to degrade faster than you’d want, giving the plum wine an off taste, which is why a cool shady spot is recommended.
Having talked about Iio Jozo’s vinegars here, I decided to use two of his vinegars in this recipe. One is a Kagoshima style Black Vinegar (kurosu/黒酢) that he makes in Kyoto that is sometimes drank as a health tonic, whilst the other is black bean vinegar which if i’m not mistaken is aged for 10 years.
Here’s an update on how the previous Okinawa Black Sugar Umeshu turned out after 3 months! You can see that most of the sugar as dissolved into the alcohol and the plums have started to float to the top. The smaller plums have even started to shrivel up and release their juices into the wine. In a few more days, the smaller plums will start to sink to the bottom whilst the large plums will shrivel up before following suit.
Taste wise, it was aged for 3 months so it still taste slightly harsh but it was definitely good! It’s like normal Umeshu but with a caramel like flavour!
For those of you who left quotes all on my jars, you all know who you are and I hope you’re all doing well! When you told me last time that it was how you felt when you looked back that mattered the most it didn’t really make sense. Maybe now I feel like I’m beginning to understand what you were saying.