Ingredients for 1kg of fresh plums
Fresh ripe apricots (完熟杏/ Kanjuku Anzu) 1㎏
Salt (塩/ Shio) 200g
Akashiso (赤しそ / Akashiso) 100g
Salt (塩/ Shio) 20g
Citric acid( クエン酸/Kuensan) 30g
＜How to Make＞
① Brine the apricots. To do this, use a mixing bowl large enough to hold a generous amount of water and the apricots. Fill the bowl with water, add the apricots and rinse them gently under running water. Be careful not to damage them. Drain the water off and use a paper towel to dry the apricots. Use a bamboo skewer or toothpick to remove the little round bit of material (narikuchi [なり口]) where the stem was attached. This will help to prevent the development of mold.
② Add the salt and Citric acid, making sure to coat the apricots completely, and then divide the apricots into two even amounts. Place each half of the apricots into a medium-size resealable plastic bag, remove the air, and seal.
③ Place the bags one on top of the other into a tray with some depth. Switch the positions of the bags once a day until umezu (梅酢) starts to come out. (You could also use a bottle to make umeboshi. If you do, first disinfect the bottle by wiping the inside with a paper towel dampened with white rum (vodka is OK, too). Next, add a layer of apricots, then salt, then another layer of apricots, and so on, ending with salt on top. Place a weight equal to the weight of the apricots and salt on top of the apricots and salt. The salt will cause water to come out of the apricots, but not immediately. To speed up the process, stir the apricots once a day for the first three days. Set the bottle aside for a total of 10 days to 2 weeks and then proceed to step ④.
④ Prepare the akashiso. To do this, rinse the akashiso well and drain off the water. Sprinkle on 1/3 (about 5g) of the salt and knead the shiso. Rinse and repeat this process two more times. This will remove astringent elements from the taste of the shiso.
⑤ Squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible from the shiso. Add 1tbsp of umezu to the shiso (This is not included in the ingredient list and you can use vinegar instead*.) This will cause the shiso to further redden and help to prevent spoilage once the apricots and shiso are combined.
⑥ Add the akashiso to the bags with the apricots and massage the bags to distribute the akashiso among the apricots. The addition of shiso to the apricots will produce the characteristic red color of umeboshi.
⑦ Sun-dry the apricots. Around the end of July, when the rainy season finally ends, is the proper time for this. Check the weather forecast and choose a period when there will be 2-3 days of sunny weather. Remove the apricots from the jar and place them on a bamboo or plastic basket with a fairly flat bottom (Do not use anything made of metal because it is likely to contain steel, which will rust.) Squeeze out the umezu from the akashiso and place it on the basket, too. Dry the apricots and akashiso under the sun for 4-5 hours a day. Bring the basket inside at night. Give the apricots a quick dip in umezu and put them back on the basket. This will help to produce soft, succulent umeboshi. Perform the process described above for 2-3 days, then return the apricots and shiso to the resealable bags and let them age for at least another month. The apricots – umeboshi – can be eaten once the sun-drying has been completed, but they will be very sour. Letting them age for at least a month will soften the taste.
* The amount of time to age plum-umeboshi is a matter of preference. Letting umeboshi rest for 2-3 years, for example, is said to take the edge off of both the saltiness and sourness. You may find it interesting to set some of your umeboshi batches aside each year to see how aging changes their flavor.
Recipe Developed by Kitchen Nippon