Umeboshi is salted and dried fruit of Prunus mume, which is actually a family of apricots, not a plum. Umeboshi is one of those things Japanese can’t live without. Any Japanese grocery stores all over the world must carry them, but they can be expensive, particularly if I want to get good ones.
Recent commercially made and sold umeboshi are not as salty as they used to be, as manufactures are answering to people’s low sodium demands. They also tend to be flavored with with sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup, and many other additives in order to make them taste milder.
It’s a personal preference, but I don’t like flavored umeboshi. I just don’t think they go well with rice. And old style simple umeboshi, without any additives, is hard to get even in New York.
One of the problems to make umeboshi outside of Japan is the availabilities of ume fruit. If you live in California or Washington State, you may be able to get them in spring. Choose large yellow well ripen ones, preferably with some blush, but no blemishes.
For the rest of us, there are apricots. Try to choose smaller and not so soft ones without blemishes. It’s better to choose early season’s little harder apricots than sweet or mushy ones.
For both ume and apricot fruit need to be brined in its own juice for about a month. If you use ume, you need to use weights to extract water contents from the fruit. But if you use apricots, you can omit weights, as they are much softer than ume.
Then, the conventional Japanese wisdom tells to take umeboshi out from the brine and dry under the sun for 3 days and 3 nights. But we live in vastly different environment, and how long the fruit need to be dried really depends on the circumstances. For instance if you live in Arizona, you may need to dry only 8 hours.
I once dried my salted apricots at the rooftop of my apartment, but many people including myself don’t have time and space to watch over the drying fruit for 3 days. Then I found a method to dry them in my car. It works very well. Just make sure to spread apricots in a single layer without touching each other, and place some towels in a couple of layers under them.
Freshly dried umeboshi from ume or apricots are edible immediately, but you may notice harsh saltiness. That gradually becomes milder when they are stored at room temperature. Within 1~3 years the flavor peaks. They can be stored indefinitely, but it seems after 5 years or so, discoloration starts.
Umeboshi made from ume and apricots are still edible without drying under the sun. But I strongly recommend to do so, because the result after one year will be significantly different.
If you want to make on your own, you can find a recipe below. The process is simple and straight forward. You don’t even need to work hard. But you just need to have a patience to let the nature to do the job.
- Ziploc bags or containers
- Tooth pick
- Vodka to sanitize containers
- Glass or food grade plastic container
- 2 lb to 6 lb weight (optional)
- Straw beach mat (or something to place salted apricots on)
Previous Comments (Please add new comments under the “REVIEW” tab.)
Alison, Submitted on 2015/04/23 at 5:34 pm
I’m looking forward to making these umeboshi when the apricot season starts. Here in Spain there are basically two kinds of apricots: the orande ones which are quite big and smaller pale yellow ones with a red blush. Which would you recommend?
By the way my yuzu tree is in full flower so I’m hoping most of them don’t drop off before forming fruits.Last year ther were only five yuzu but they were big.
Yuki, Submitted on 2015/04/23 at 5:45 pm | In reply to Alison.
Hi Alison, I recommend to use the smaller apricots for umeboshi, because huge umeboshi apricots can’t be finished in one meal. Choose not too young, but unripened ones. It’s wonderful that your yuzu tree is blooming! I am sure you will get many fruit this year.
Fatima, Submitted on 2015/06/12 at 11:41 am
I have been researching umeboshi recipes and was super excited to find yours. The photos are exceptionally helpful. I will make these traditional umeboshi but would also love to make the crispy ones sold in jars at our local markets. Do you have a recipe you can share? Thank you.
Yuki, Submitted on 2015/06/12 at 3:12 pm | In reply to Fatima.
Thank you! Please do make umeboshi, either from ume fruit or apricots. Actually, there is a reason why I don’t upload crunchy type umeboshi. In order to make that type of umeboshi, you need to have green, unripened, small, and just picked fresh ume fruit, which is almost impossible to get in the United States. But if you have a ume (prunus mume) tree which bears small and hard fruit, you can make crunchy umeboshi. If you are one of those such lucky person, let me know. I will send a recipe to you.
Fatima, Submitted on 2015/06/14 at 10:49 am
Thank you for your reply. I am so fortunate to live near a Mitsuwa market where ume plums are available so I would really appreciate your recipe for those yummy crunchy pickled ume. Also, would I be able to add shiso to your traditional recipe? If so, at what point in the process would I do it? Thank you again. I love your blog!
Yuki, Submitted on 2015/06/17 at 10:56 pm | In reply to Fatima.
I am sorry to be late to respond. I was traveling and now in Japan. You are so lucky to get green ume fruit. To make sour and crunchy ume, wash them carefully and soak in plenty of water overnight. After draining, remove the stumps carefully using a toothpick. Dry ume with wet paper towel, and put them in a large bowl. Sprinkle a small amount of vodka to sanitize, and add salt, which is 10% of the ume’s total weight. Massage the ume with salt well until you see the color of the fruit turn bright green. Put a weight, which is twice as heavy as the fruit over the ume evenly, and weight for 2 days. During the time, to ensure the even result, mix the fruit every day. Wash red shiso leaves (stems removed), to get rid of any dirt. Dry them well, either air dry or dry with paper towel. Sprinkle salt, which is 4% of the total weight of shiso leaves, over shiso and wring well. Then squeeze the shiso and get rid of dark water (discard the dark water). Add salt, which is 6% of the total weight of shiso leaves, wrung, squeeze, and get rid of dark water again. Then mix 2 cups of white vinegar and 1 tsp of salt, and add the mixture to the squeezed shiso leaves to make the color brighten. Lightly squeeze the vinegar out of the shiso, and put the ume (after 2 days of salting) and the shiso in a ziploc bag and mix. Remove the air as much as possible, and keep it in a fridge for a month or so. At this point, the ume fruits are red and ready to eat. Unlike umeboshi, sour and cruncy ume fruits has to be kept in a refrigerator.