Well it is that time of year, where the Japanese are all steeping their plum wine. This drink is neither made from plums nor is it wine, but that’s how people tend to translate it nonetheless (its really more like an apricot). I of course didn’t want to be left out of such festivities, so I got myself down to the supermarket to buy everything I would need to enjoy this experience. This really is rather cultural, and is widely practiced throughout Japan. It is currently the rainy season in Japan, or in Japanese 梅雨. These characters literally mean “‘Plum’ Rain”, on account of the two events taking place concurrently. Despite the overwhelming popularity of the plum wine, henceforth called Umeshu, the science works with any fruit. So to try out some variety, I decided to try a batch of pineapple as well.
Step 1 was to procure all the supplies I would need for this. I would be needing my fruits, rock sugar, any white liquor, and of course containers to put this all in. I’ve read about people getting adventurous with the base alcohol, but I didn’t want to get too experimental on my first try. The next batches will get more interesting. This time of year, all of these supplies are sold in the same general area of any grocery store, so this part was actually pretty easy.
All set, and ready to go. (I had started to eat the sugar…)
Step 2 was prepping the Ume. These little guys had a very fine peach fuzz, but still needed to be washed and dried. This wasn’t too arduous, and only took a few minutes. The next preparatory piece required a bit more effort, but not too bad. Here, I needed to remove any stems in the Ume, done with a safety pin. The pineapple needed to be sliced into chunks, and the only difference to the concoction was that a few lemons needed to be added as well. I’m not sure why exactly the lemon were necessary, but I imagine it is just something to help balance the flavors. Of course, this is just my first time, so I am blindly following the directions I found online.
So once I had them all set to go it was time to start getting my goods into the glass containers. First I put the sugar in the bottom, about 500 grams in each, and then piled in the fruit. The recipe also suggested putting the pineapple rind in as well for a about a week, for some earthy undertones maybe? The last thing to do was add the liquor. The batch sizes were a little different in fruit quantity, so I had to rework the ratios a bit. The umeshu is going to yield about 2300ml, and the pineapple will be closer to 3000ml. Considering the potency of the brew, 70 proof, it will be plenty enough and last a while. I had a few of my fellow teachers go in on the umeshu, and we’ll dig into that together later.
Here you can see all the layers involved.
For now, the only thing left to do is be patient. The alcohol takes about 3 months to fully take on the flavors, but even after that the drink as a whole needs to mellow. It is generally recommended to wait about 6-12 months before breaking it out. Till then, I just need to store it somewhere dark and dry, and mix on occasion. The next batch will hopefully see oranges and strawberries, and probably the addition of a third or fourth jar.