Monday, May 21, 2007

making ume-shu うめしゅ(梅酒)

Ume-shu [うめしゅ(梅酒)] is a Japanese liqueur made from green Japanese plums (ume), rock sugar, and Shōchū (a clear alcohol distilled from rice). It is prepared by steeping green ume in shōchū for extended periods of time. In fact, patience is the most important ingredient in the classic ume-shu recipe! Traditionally made in the springtime, during the harvest time for green plums, the finished product is not drinkable until the cold autumn months (at the earliest). In fact, most ume-shu is stored in a dark place for at least one year prior to drinking. The longer the steeping process, the darker the color, the sweeter and more intense the flavor. Like most things in cooking, patience is rewarded!

On the right, ume-shu that has steeped for two years. On the left, unsteeped Shōchū:

To make ume-shu, only a few ingredients are required:

1) Rock Sugar (pictured above, left)
2) Shōchū (Korean variety pictured above, back left; Japanese pictured below, left)
3) Japanese Green Plums (pictured below, right).

The ingredients are combined together in an air-tight container, and allowed to steep in a cool, dry place...

Of course, many varieties of "shu" can be made. In the past we have made grapefruit, cherry, pineapple, asian pear, and ginger. This year, not only did we make ume-shu, but also lemon-shu.

We used sliced fresh lemons, as well as some peeled lemons (removing the pith from the fruit to decrease bitterness).

This year we further augmented our previously steeped ginger-shu with the fresh aromatics of lemongrass. To do so, we added more rock sugar and fresh sliced lemongrass to the existing ginger-shu. We can't wait to see how our experiment tastes!

Traditionally, shu is served on the rocks or with various mixers (soda, tonic, etc.) Of course, for the adventurous, shu can be made in fantastic martinis or other mixed drinks.

As they say in Japan, kanpai! [かんぱい!(乾杯)]... that is, cheers!

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