梅酒 - umeshu
Prunellia's post on her favorite Japanese drink is timely because it is just the season to harvest plums and to prepare umeshu. In our garden we have a lot of plum trees and each year they produce a lot of fruits. Last year for the first time the fruits were harvested and used to prepare umeshu. As Prunellia mentioned, Umeshu is prepared from still green plums and usually with shochu (a white traditional alcoholic drink made of rice, potato, sweet potato...). The recipe used here to prepare the Umeshu uses nihonshu, which is regular Japanese sake or rice wine and gives a milder taste to the preparation. I've got the recipe from a lady living nearby. Actually last year she prepared the umeshu with our fruits, but this year I was very much tempted to prepare some myself, so she gave me her recipe and helped me out for my first time.
The recipe is really simple, but be aware unlike a lot of alcoholic preparations that are ready in 60 or 90 days (peach wine, verbena liquor... that I used to prepare according to my grand mother recipes), this one takes a whole year (you can try earlier but one year guaranties the best taste/color).
You need Japanese hard plums, rock sugar, sake or shochu, and a large jar (usually plastic or glass) with a tight lid and a big mouth to fit the plums in. First wash the plum and remove the stems, then wash again and dry them properly. Weight the plums that can fit 3/4 of the jar, weight the half amount of rock sugar. Clean and dry perfectly the jar and then pick the plums with a fork a few times around and make layers of plum and rock sugar until the 3/4 has been reached. Cover with the sake or shochu up to 2-3cm higher than the level of fruits and sugar. Close the lid tightly, store in a cool and dark place for almost a year. Once in a while you can shake the jar to help the sugar melt.
Prunellia, I'm counting on you to come next spring or summer to try my homemade umeshu with the plums from the garden!