If you have ever been to an izakaya (居酒屋), Japanese pub, you might remember trying a delightfully sweet, fruity, and surprisingly strong drink called umeshu, Japanese plum wine. It can be enjoyed on the rocks or mixed with hot or cold water, soda water, tea, and more. The most well known umeshu maker is Choya. Check your local liquor store for this brand, but as is the case with most things, homemade is best! Umeshu is easy to make, so why not give it a try? Before we get to the recipe, here are 3 things you might not know about Japanese plum wine.
Fact #1: Umeshu has no expiration date!
Umeshu can be ready in as little as 3 months, but 6 months to a year is recommended.
As long as you use liquor with 35% alcohol content or higher, it won’t go bad. The longer you leave your wine, the deeper the taste will become. (Just make sure to take the fruit out after the first year of fermentation!)
Fact #2: Umeshu-making used to be illegal!
Although making homemade umeshu was considered a worthy side business in the late Edo Period, it became illegal in the twentieth century. It wasn’t until 1962 that it was legalized.
Fact #3: Umeshu is good medicine!
Umeshu contains nutritious vitamins and minerals that are said to help with recovery from fatigue, promote blood circulation, and help with constipation, indigestion, or lack of appetite.
Note: Umeshu is high in calories, so don’t go too crazy on the medicine. Try one “ochoko” sake cup (about 45ml) before meals or a cup of diluted umeshu before bed to help you drift off to sleep.
How To Make Homemade Umeshu
1 kg Japanese ume, green plums
1 kg rock sugar/500~800g honey
1 liter shochu, vodka, gin, or brandy
Things you will need–
(You can order Japanese ume online here, but unless you live in San Rafael, the shipping will be a bit pricey. Instead, check your local Asian market.)
How To Make
Step 1: Sterilize the jar using shochu, or any other method.
Step 2: Rinse the fruit thoroughly, dry, and use a pick to remove the stem ends. Also remove any bad spots or bruises.
Step 3: Prick the fruit seven to eight times to help with the fruit juice extraction.
Step 4: Add alternating layers of plums and rock sugar (or honey) to your glass jar until it is halfway full. Pour your alcohol of choice over everything.
Step 5: Screw on the lid tightly, write the date on label, and stick it on your jar. Store in a cool, dark place for 3-6 months, or if you have the patience, a year!
Tip! Use frozen plums. The juices are actually more easily extracted when you use frozen fruit!
What is your favorite way to drink umeshu? Do you have any tips for the best homemade umeshu?
Let us know in the comments below!
For your drinking experience–