Friday, May 15, 2009
Making the Best Use of Our Ume Plums (1)
On May 13th, my mom and I went to dad's orange orchard on the hillside to pick ume plums. Ume is the variety that does not turn sweet even when it's ripe and yellow. Traditionally unripe green ones are used for making super sour & salty pickles called umeboshi or infused liquor called umeshu. But our family is not too crazy about the pickles and mom got tired of making the liquor. What we had in mind was more "contemporary" recipes: Ume miso dressing, ume jam and ume juice.
You can't expect plums to be good looking when they were grown in a wild environment with no pesticide used. We found most of our ume plums badly speckled. But I read on several Japanese websites that such speckled plums would cause no health problem, so we don't care any more.
Mom said that she hadn't seen this many plums on this tree for years. She wanted to stop sooner but I got sort of carried away and kept picking until we harvested more than 7 kilograms of them altogether! Gee. When I lived alone in an apartment, I would buy a small amount at the Sunday market to pickle them in a small jar. Now it's 7 kilograms that we have to deal with! And still many was left on the tree when we left.
On the next day, I made two jars of jam with 1 kg of the green ume plums.
Too bad. This was not a great success. I should have made it exactly the same way as the last time, but I thought our plums might be more harsh than the good looking, store-bought ones I used last time. So I soaked them in water for too long and added sugar definitely more than necessary. As a result, the jam turned out too sweet with very little refreshing ume flavor. Though it tasted good when I licked it while it was simmering, I didn't taste ume at all when I ate the jam with a piece of bread next morning. :( The recipe and method that lead to a success are here, if you're interested.
You probably know what I usually do with not-so-good jam/marmalade, right? Yep, I baked the jam into cupcakes this time. They turned out just OK, but again, no refreshing ume flavor that I wanted. Oh well. Still plenty of ume is left on the tree, so...
Mom made ume miso on the same day. I posted about ume miso once on my previous blog, so check out this post to find the recipe and method, if you're interested. (In that post ripe yellowish ume plums were used, because that was the only thing I could buy then, but unripe green ones like these are far better.)
I think this is the first time I post about this ume juice, right? THIS is everyone's favorite around here. The majority of mom's friends are now asking her to make this instead of the once-popular shiso (perilla) drink, and I like this better, too.
The recipe is so simple, like other recipes calling for fresh ume plums. I'll post it with the instruction when we actually put these in jars with crystallized sugar. What we did today was the preparation: freezing the ume. They should be kept in the freezer for more than 24 hours. BTW, they are not in the freezer of the big fridge in the kitchen, because there's absolutely NO space in there. I expected that and brought back my small fridge when I moved in.
Good thinking, huh?