Umeboshi is sour and salty Japanese preserved food. Besides soy sauce, they are one of the most familiar food to Japanese. When a Japanese gets sick and doesn’t have an appetite, umeboshi and softly cooked white rice come to rescue. People believe in its mild medicinal property, such as helping digestion, increase appetite, and fix hungover. It sometimes use it for cooking.
Umeboshi is expensive, because the production process is labor intensive, and still cannot be automated. I made fake umeboshi using apricots, as ume fruit is not available in my area. Ume blossoms bloom early spring before cherry blossom, and the fruit are harvested in June. They are called pickled plums in English, but they are rather close to apricots.
Ume trees and the fruit were originally brought from China to Japan. Because umeboshi is heavily salted, it can last hundreds of years. From time to time, I hear news of few hundred years old vintages were found at an old family’s cellar, and they are still edible.
Many umeboshi sold at grocery stores now are low sodium, and seasoned with sugar and other flavorings, in order to make them more palatable. Those flavored umeboshi products are perishable and need to be stored in a refrigerator and consumed by the expiration date.
Pitted umeboshi flesh is available on the market, but the whole ones has wider use. If the recipe calls for chopped umeboshi flesh without a pit, you can do so easily. A whole umeboshi dropped in a cup of hot water makes a comforting salty sour drink to cure hangovers.
They are sold at Japanese grocery stores, and possibly at Chinese and Korean grocery stores as well. If you want to make on your own, here is the recipe. However if you prefer to order online, here are the links;