Start to Finish: 1 hour plus minimum 5 months aging
Servings:: 1/2 gallon
Plum wine, or umeshu, is something you want to plan ahead -- expect at least 6 months before you can have your first sip, and as much as two years before it mellows and matures to its full glory. You also need need a few uncommon ingredients -- but they're worth the effort you'll expend in attaining them. First, you need ume plums. Only edible in preserved form -- such as when fermented for plum wine -- this golf-ball sized variety is only available in early summer. Then you need shochu, a Japanese spirit that acts as the fermentation catalyst for the plums and prevents mold from forming. Lastly, you need rock sugar, widely available at Chinese markets.
(Recipe adapted from JUSTHUNGRY.)
- Up to 1 1/4 pounds rock sugar, available at Asian markets
- 2 pounds emu plums
- 2 liters (34 ounces) shochu
- 1-gallon canning jar with accompanying lid and gasket
Preparing the Equipment
Boil the canning jar for 10 minutes and let it air dry. Alternatively, bake the jar and lid for 20 minutes in a 375-degree Fahrenheit oven and boil the gasket for 10 minutes.
Making the Umeshu
Wash and dry the plums. Dig out the stems using a skewer or toothpick.
Portion 1 pound of rock sugar and set it aside. A 2:1 ratio of plums to sugar produces a balance of sweetness to tartness. Use 3/4 pound of sugar for a tart wine and 1 1/4 pounds of sugar for a sweet wine.
Line the bottom of the jar with a layer of plums. Layer the plums with a layer of rock sugar. Repeat the plum-sugar layering until both are spent.
Pour the shochu over the plums and sugar. It should cover the plums by 1/2 to 1 inch. Seal the jar.
Maturing the Umeshu
Set the jar in a cool, dark room, such as a basement closet.
Store the plums for 3 months. Shake the jar weekly to help the sugar dissolve.
Remove the plums. You can discard them or eat them; they're bursting with sugar and shochu, preserved and edible.
Age the plum wine for another minimum 3 months. At this point, taste the wine -- it's now ready to drink. If you prefer a mellower taste, continue aging the wine until it reaches the desired flavor.
Weigh the plums and rock sugar with a digital scale. Although plum wine isn't as exacting as regular wine making, the taste relies on a relatively accurate proportion of fruit to sugar. Furthermore, the required amount of shochu, which plays a critical role in maintaining a sterile environment, depends on the amount of plums and sugar.
If you want to make more than 1/2 gallon of plum wine, use a proportionately sized jar. For example, if you want to make 5 gallons of plum wine, use a 10-gallon jar; the jar should only be half full of plums and shochu when you seal it.
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