Friday, May 15, 2009

Making the Best Use of Our Ume Plums (1)

Making Ume Plum Jam

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.

Unripe, green ume plums

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.

Ume Plums in dad's orchard

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.

Green Ume Plum Jam (May 14, 2009)

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.

Ume Jam Cupcakes

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...

Ume Miso (May 14, 2009)

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.)

Ume plums frozen to be used for Ume Juice (May 14, 2009)

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?


Carlyn said...

obachan;'re as clever as ever with your use of produce!!!! With such bounty, you'll have to be even more creative!!!!

Holly said...

obachan, I am so glad to find you bloging again! I knew you had taken a break and was worried about how it was going to work out. I look forward to hearing more about how life moves forward and cooking gets eaiser!
Holly Fox VA BEach VA USA

obachan said...

Thanks. I'm really pressed to be creative, to tell you the truth. You'll read more about it soon...

Thank you, Holly. Life is definitely moving forward, but I'm very skeptical about cooking getting easier. :P You'll read more about it soon...

Ellydishes said...

Oh, this is so mouth-watering... I started really liking ume after a friend introduced me to umeshu, which we loved to drink in the little bottles that have a whole ume put inside. Yum! The jam looks so delicious on the cupcakes, I want to try it myself. Could I get these sort of ume in grocery stores in Japan (in the right season)?

obachan said...

Yes. I think you can buy them at most supermarkets throughout Japan in late May? Maybe early June, too?

We just found out that the store-bought ones taste better than the ume from our orchard. :(

Melissa Kunimitsu said...

Ume miso sounds really interesting. I really like cooking with yuzu miso so I'm sure I'd love it.
What other things do you think you'll make with all those plums?
Ume vinegar tastse really refeshing.

Tea Apprentice said...

Dear Obachan, I have seen some Japanese sweets that have a whole green ume inside of sweetened jelly. Do you think I could make an edible whole ume by boiling it in sugar without chopping it up? And, do you peel your ume when making jam? Thank you! You are an inspiration!

obachan said...

Hi Tea Apprentice,

Yeah, it should be possible. I have never tried making it, but I found a few recipes.

According to one of them, you remove stem ends from green ume plums, soak them in water for 4 to 5 hours, then with toothpicks or needles, poke them all over (to prevent the skin from tearing off while being boiled).

Then you heat them in a pot with plenty of water over low heat for approx. 30 min. and drain them. Repeat the process 2 to 3 times, but do not boil them because the skin may break off.

After that, you simmer them in a pot with sugar and water (just enough to cover them) for about 30 min. over very low heat, removing the scum, and let it cool at room temperature. Store them with the liquid for a few days in the fridge before eating them.

The recipe I saw said: use 1kg ume plums and 1kg sugar.

Hope this helps. :D

I'm lazy so didn't peel ume when I made jam out of them. I minced the skin very thoroughly and cooked with the jam.

Tea Apprentice said...

Oh thank you! I will try it and let you know how it turns out =)

Tea Apprentice said...

I followed your instructions for boiling whole ume in sugar. I think it worked! They became very soft. They were sweet, but also still quite tart. The ume I found in the store were very small, so they look small in this sweet, but I think they still taste fine. Thank you!

obachan said...

Oh, I'm so happy to hear that it worked.

Thanks for giving it a try and sharing your experience!


6pairsofshoes said...

I am trying to make the jam and there is such a harsh aftertaste, I may have to discard it. I did not know about soaking and rinsing, as this is my first experience with ume. I have them cut up and in a pot cooking, so I don't know if trying to run them through a sieve and trying to continue will work. I've dumped 3 cups of sugar in there which will be washed away, but rescuing the flavor of the fruit without that bitter aftertaste is crucial if this will be edible.

I wish I'd seen your post sooner!

obachan said...

So sorry to hear about the aftertaste.
I found this method on a Japanese blog, which might work for you.

How to fix your ume plum jam when it turned out bitter:

Put the jam in a pot.
Add the same amount of water as the jam and cook.
Keep removing the scum (that looks like foam) on the surface carefully and thoroughly until the jam boils down to desired consistency.

Hope this helps!


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