I’ll start us off with a recipe I’ve made every year for the past decade.
Japanese style “plum” liqueur.
Known as 梅酒 (ume-shu) in Japan and, mysteriously, as “Plum wine” in the US. Ume-shu is a super simple liqueur to make. There is no peeling, no maceration, no pitting, no boiling, and no filtration. Ume-shu uses small Japanese “plums,” Prunus mume, which are actually a kind of apricot. But you can use other plums or apricots in the recipe without worry.
Here’s what you need:
-A big 4 liter jar, (large enough to hold about 1.5l of liqour, plus plums and sugar)
-1kg of plums/apricots
-750g~1kg of sugar (Rock sugar works best, why is explained below, but any other sugar will do, even honey. Brown sugars will add flavor to the ume-shu while white sugars will give a “brighter” flavor.)
-1.5~1.8 liters of you favorite liquor at least 35% alcohol by volume (your base liquor will affect the flavor. Vodka makes a clean, bright, traditional ume-shu, dark rum makes one smooth and deep, whiskey can add smoke/wood flavors -my favorite is Meyer’s Dark Rum) Cheap booze is okay, but will lengthen the resting time.
optional -smaller bottles to put the final product in.
Note: You can change the amounts, but try to keep the ratio of sugar-booze-plums the same. This will keep bad things like mold and bacteria from growing. If you lower the ratio of sugar you use then you will have a more sour final product with the trade-off being that flavor will take longer to develop. If you increase the ratio of sugar then flavor will develop faster but you will have a very sweet liqueur. Sugar, of some kind, is a necessary ingredient for this method of making ume-shu.
What you do:
Make sure your plums are clean and dry, weed out any with obvious bruises. Remove the stem and the remains of the calyx(the little brown skin-like thing at the base of the stem), a toothpick may help. Make sure you still have a kilogram of plums to use.
Freeze the plums. This will help to destroy the cell walls inside the plum and let more of the good flavors out before the alcohol reaches the bitter pit.
CLEAN your jar well, don’t forget the screws on the lid. If you are using a 40% ABV liquor you can do this with that.
Put a layer of frozen plums in the bottom of your jar. Add a layer of sugar on top of them. Then another layer of plums and another layer of sugar. Continue until plums are gone, but leave enough sugar for one last layer over the top. Note: We are extracting flavor and juice from the plums by osmosis. The high sugar content on the outside of the skin will pull the less-sweet juice out of the plums and let the alcohol move inside. That is why rock sugar is the easiest to work with. Its large size means it doesn’t all sink to the bottom of the jar, so you don’t need to stir. If you are using regular sugar, or honey, then you need to stir your liqueur regularly. Probably about once a week or so. Remember to clean your stirring utensil well so you don’t contaminate things.
Special Note: If you want to make plum syrup, without alcohol, you’re done! Just wait 10~16 days and you will see your lovely syrup drip out of the plums. Remove the plums and you are good to go.
Slowly pour in your alcohol of choice, cover the jar so it’s air-tight, and put the jar in a cool, dark place.
Wait(Stir if you used honey/regular sugar).
Wait(Stir if you used honey/regular sugar).
After 3 months it’s ready to taste. You are looking for three things, plum flavor, bitterness, and sharpness.
Plum Flavor: If you are happy with the plum flavor then you can pull the plums out and eat them. If you want more flavor then leave them in and let it sit some more. But too long may lead to…
Bitterness: Once the alcohol reaches the pits of the plums it will start to extract bitter flavor components. Don’t worry, it won’t ruin it, but some people prefer the ume-shu without the extra bitterness. It’s really up to you. You can leave the plums in forever. Eventually, we are talking a several year time frame now, the bitter flavors will blend into the background. Much like the…
Sharpness: If the flavor is still sharp (you know, the burn of cheap booze), then you need to let it rest longer. The longer the sugar and alcohol rest, the smoother your liqueur will become.
After six months it should be ready. At this point I always removed the plums and moved the ume-shu to old liquor bottles for easier drinking. But feel free to let it sit longer with the plums in it. You might pick up some extra bitterness, but time can smooth that out. The plums are delicious boozy snacks. You can eat them as they are, or add them as a garnish to your ume-shu drink.
Once done drink up! Popular ways to drink ume-shu at my house are “on-the-rocks,” with soda, and with hot water.
My apologies for the lack of pictures. I’ll be sure to take some this year! But there are some nice ones here at cookpad.
Edited for clarity, typos, and to add a few things I missed