How to Make Homemade Plum Wine


Start to Finish: 1 hour plus minimum 5 months aging
Servings:: 1/2 gallon
Difficulty: Moderate

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.

Cooking Notes

  • 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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