Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ode to the umeboshi: How to make them yourself

Oh, the humble umeboshi.
Your wrinkly pink skin is so devine,
Your sour salty flesh so alkaline,
In winter does your yangness invigorate,
In summer do your electrolytes rejuvenate.
Illness extinguishes appetite,
Rice gruel with umeboshi and soysauce makes it right.
Sour stomachs may cause us misery hard to endure,
Only tea with you and soysauce can cure.
So here is to you umeboshi,
Simple and common,
Remedy to10,000 illnesses summon.

Not brilliant poetry, and umeboshi is worthy of much better, but you get the idea.

I wrote today as my wife put up 207 umeboshi that she has been doctoring along for two months. This is her approximate recipe. (She cobbled together ideas from here and there to make hers.

Ingredients: at least one kilogram of ume fruit (Ume is a fruit like an apricot.), 180g of salt per kilo of fruit, 500g of salted red beef steak leaf or perilla.

1. Wash the ume in water, removing stems, leaves and throwing out bug-eaten fruit. Completely drain water off of the fruit.
2. Put the fruit into a crock or large jar and pour the salt on top of the fruit, covering it evenly. (Some recipes call for a layered approach, fruit and salt alternating.)
3. cover with a lid that covers the fruit, but not the opening of the jar, and then put a weight on top of the lid. The weight should be about 2 kilos, and this should gently press the fruit and salt together. Leave this for anywhere from five days to a month. (recipes vary)
4. At the end of this period there will be a yellowish liquid called "white ume vinegar." Keep it out and add the shiso. Again, recipes vary. You can leave it on top or layer it in with the ume. Then pour in the white ume vinegar, put on the lid with the weight, and let sit for another 20 days.
5. After that time, remove the pickled ume and shiso from the jar and lay them out on a large wooden or bamboo tray. (The liquid will now be called "shiso ume vinegar." It is good as a substitute for vinegar in salad dressings and other places where you may want to use a fruity vinegar.) They should barely be touching each other, and the shiso should be evenly and thinly spread. Put this out in the sun to dry for 3 to 4 days.
6. At the end of this time put them back in the crock or jar that you used to pickle them in, and store in a cool, dry place.
7. Serve them with white rice. (One ume per serving.)

No comments: