I’ve been seeing lots of lovely green ume (Japanese “plums,” though I’ve heard that they’re actually a type of apricot) at the market lately. I’ve also heard that the season for ume is quite short, so I decided I had better get some to try before they’re gone. I got some inspiration for my ume cook-a-thon while reading on Obachan’s Kitchen & Balcony Garden and Blue Lotus. Last week I had Monday off, so I rode my bicycle to the Shoku-no-Eki (Food Station), a shop that carries a lot of locally grown and produced foods. I picked out a nice looking bag of locally grown ao-ume (“blue ume,” but as you can see they’re really green).
I started by removing the stem-end from the ume and soaking them in salted water. Then I went out to buy some jars. Once I got to the cooking store, I realized that I had better know that I like making jam before I invest in canning jars, so I decided to just freeze my jam in “tupperware” instead.
ume-miso on day 1
Back at home, I started with Obachan’s ume-miso. A 1-pint jar held 6 ume. I weighed the ume to determine how much sugar and miso to use. It turned out that 160 grams each of ume, sugar, and miso filled the jar almost perfectly. After a few days, the ume began to release their juices and the miso and sugar blended together. There was some sugar on the bottom of the jar that hasn’t quite dissolved yet, so if I make ume-miso again, I’ll put in some miso first and then the ume and sugar. I’m not sure exactly what to do with the ume-miso when it’s finished. I’ll start looking for ideas between now and then.
ume jam and yogurt
After ume-miso came the jam. I used Obachan’s recipe and this one that she linked to in her post. I tried my best to read the recipe on the Japanese page, but there may have been some errors in my translation. I wasn’t sure if I should drain the ume after they turned the color of ume-shu’s ume, but in the end it didn’t matter, because by the time I noticed that they had changed color (due to some kitchen multi-tasking) they had become too soft to drain anyways. So I just boiled the jam for a while to evaporate the excess water. In hindsight, I think I should have tried my best to drain them because it took several hours for the jam to thicken to a proper consistency. By the time it did, the jam was no longer a lovely shade of green. In fact, I stopped paying attention for a few minutes so that I could finish making dinner, and the jam at the bottom of the pan had started to caramelize (maybe even to burn?). Oops :o Luckily, even though the color is a bit darker than I had hoped for, it doesn’t taste burned at all, and it’s lovely and tart. My favorite way to eat it is stirred into my yogurt for breakfast.
edit: Here’s more about my second (not burned) batch of ume jam.
about 6 ume (about 160 grams)
160 grams white sugar
160 grams miso
Pack ume into your empty jar to determine how many you can fit in it. My 1-pint jar holds 6 large ume.
Make a 1 cm (approximately) layer of miso in the bottom of a 1-pint jar. Add two ume. Add 1 to 2 cm layer of sugar. Continue to layer sugar, miso and ume until the jar is filled and all of the sugar, miso, and ume are used. Close the jar and wait one month or more until the ume-miso is ready. I am not sure what to do with it next, so I guess there will be more to come on that later…
900 grams ao-ume (mostly green, not yellow
700 grams sugar (this makes a very tart jam, use more sugar if you like your jam sweeter)
Use a toothpick or wooden skewer to remove the stem end from the ume. It is brown and may be very small, but it does not taste good, so make sure to remove it. Place ume in a large bowl and cover with salted water (I used a tablespoon or so of salt). Soak ume for several hours or overnight.
Place ume in a large pot (I use a heavy cast iron to prevent scorching. If you are careless, even this may not save you. See above) and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Once the water starts to boil and the ume change color slightly, drain them. Return to the pot with a small amount of water and simmer gently. A white froth will form on top as the jam boils. Skim this and discard it. When the ume are soft, you can use a wooden spoon or potato masher to smash them and remove the pits. When the jam thickens to the point that it coats the back of a spoon, it is ready. Allow to cool slightly before putting into containers. I froze mine, but you can can yours in jars if you wish to keep it for longer than a few months.
In case you’re wondering how fresh the ume are at Shoku-no-eki, I saw this fellow making a delivery as I was leaving after my shopping there. As you can see, they work with many smaller farmers.
More ume on Okonomiyaki!