How to Make Umeboshi - Japanese Ume Pickles

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    How to Make Umeboshi

    Umeboshi
    MIXA/Getty Images

    Umeboshi literally means dried ume (Japanese apricots or plums) and generally refers to ume pickles. It's traditional preserved food. Umeboshi making typically begins in June when ume are harvested in Japan. Ingredients and processes vary between households. Here are basic steps for making them at home. You can use this umeboshi recipe, which is simply the ume and salt.

    The process usually starts in June when the ume are ripe and harvested. They are then salted and form their own liquid, umezu....MORE They are traditionally dyed red, which will be shown using red shiso leaves. The umeboshi are usually dried in the sun in July or August after the rainy season has passed. Then they are stored in the umezu.

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  • 02 of 15

    Remove Stems from the Ume

    Making Pickled Ume Plums
    Making Pickled Ume Plums. Photo (c) Setsuko Yoshizuka

    Remove the tiny black stems from the ume, using a bamboo stick and wash the ume. Soak them in water for a few hours.

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  • 03 of 15

    Drain and Dry the Ume Plums.

    Making Pickled Ume Plums
    Making Pickled Ume. Photo (c) Setsuko Yoshizuka

    Drain the ume in a strainer and dry them well.

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  • 04 of 15

    Spray Shochu on Ume Plums

    Making Pickled Ume
    Making Pickled Ume. Photo (c) Setsuko Yoshizuka

    Place the ume in a large bowl and spray about 1/3 cup of shochu (clear distilled spirit which contains 35 percent alcohol) on ume (about 4 1/2 lb) well.

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  • 05 of 15

    Sprinkle Salt over the Ume

    Making Pickled Ume
    Making Pickled Ume. Photo (c) Setsuko Yoshizuka

    Coarse salt is used for making umeboshi. First, measure salt. The amount of salt used for pickling ume are basically 15 to 20 percent of ume's weight. It's said that this ratio is ideal to reduce the risk of mold growth.

    Sprinkle half the amount of salt over ume and shake the bowl to cover them with salt.

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  • 06 of 15

    Place Ume Plums in Pickling Container

    Making Pickled Ume
    Making Pickled Ume. Photo (c) Setsuko Yoshizuka

    Place the salted ume in a sterilized ceramic or plastic container. Put the rest of the salt on top of the ume.

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  • 07 of 15

    Place a Weight on Top of the Ume

    Making Pickled Ume
    Making Pickled Ume. Photo (c) Setsuko Yoshizuka

    Put a sterilized wooden lid or a sterilized plate on top of the ume. Place a sterilized weight that weighs as much as the ume on the top of the lid or plate.

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  • 08 of 15

    Cover the Container with Paper

    Making Pickled Ume
    Making Pickled Ume. Photo (c) Setsuko Yoshizuka

    Cover the container with thin paper and tie a string around the container. Leave it in a cool, dark place.

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  • 09 of 15

    Umezu

    Making Pickled Ume
    Making Pickled Ume. Photo (c) Setsuko Yoshizuka

    After a few days or so, clear liquid called umezu (ume vinegar) is extracted from the ume. Let them pickle in umezu until red shiso leaves are harvested or drying time comes, being careful about mold growth.

    To dye umeboshi with red shiso leaves, see How to Prepare Red Shiso Leaves for Pickling Ume

    If you aren't dying umeboshi with red shiso, go to the drying process.

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  • 10 of 15

    Begin Dyeing Umeboshi

    Making Pickled Ume
    Making Pickled Ume. Photo (c) Setsuko Yoshizuka

    Pour red umezu over pickled ume in the pickling container for dyeing.

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  • 11 of 15

    Place Red Shiso Leaves

    Making Pickled Ume
    Making Pickled Ume. Photo (c) Setsuko Yoshizuka

    Spread red shiso leaves used to make red umezu on top of ume. Put a sterilized plate on ume plums and place a sterilized weight which weighs half as much as the ume on the top. Cover with lid and leave the container in a cool, dark place until drying time comes, being careful about mold growth.

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  • 12 of 15

    Begin Drying Ume

    Making Pickled Ume
    Making Pickled Ume. Photo (c) Setsuko Yoshizuka

    Ume drying is usually done in July or August when the rainy season is over in Japan. Check your local weather forecast. When hot sunny weather continues at least three days, begin drying pickled ume. Take the ume out of the container, reserving the liquid (umezu) in the container.

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  • 13 of 15

    Dry Pickled Ume under the Sun

    Making Pickled Ume
    Making Pickled Ume. Photo (c) Setsuko Yoshizuka
    Gently spread ume plums on bamboo mats or baskets and place them under the sun. Umezu left in the pickling container is also exposed to the sun for a day.

    Dry pickled red shiso leaves under the sun at the same time for making furikake (Japanese seasoning).

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  • 14 of 15

    Dry Ume Pickles

    Making Pickled Ume
    Making Pickled Ume. Photo (c) Setsuko Yoshizuka

    It's common to dry ume pickles under the sun for three days or until the surface of ume pickles turns whitish. You want to avoid rain during this process. Now the dried ume pickles are called umeboshi.

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  • 15 of 15

    Store Umeboshi in Umezu

    Making Pickled Ume Plums
    Making Pickled Ume. Photo (c) Setsuko Yoshizuka

    Place umeboshi back in umezu and store in a cool, dark place. They can be eaten after 10 days or so, but it's good to wait a few months for better flavor.