Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sumomo Shu: Another Jar 'Plum' Full of Winter Warmth

Like all the rhubarb and blueberry shus underway for the year, this one is an experiment in fruit. I'd ventured down to the July Earth Day Market with a good friend to interview Takashi Watanabe from Toziba about his Daizu Revolution, and was pleasantly surprised to see so much fruit on offer in addition to the usual round of vegetables. (A quick side note: Don't forget to check out the markets for August and notice a few schedule changes due to the Obon holidays.)

Peaches (mom0 in Japanese), prunes (a dusky hued plum), and plums (sumomo) sat fat and sassy in their crates just waiting to be scooped up. Last year they would have inspired visions of jam in my head, but this year my brain is turning to shu. (No intended double meaning intended there.) Energy concerns, summer's ridiculously high temperatures, and a lack of time as the semester ended with writing deadlines and packing for Hokkaido to be done, shu seemed a logical choice.

Sumomo or Prunus triflora, are a species of plum found in Asia and usually smaller than their American cousins. A little research tells me the half-ripe plums are usually turned into shu, which would be in keeping with what I know about ume, too. The ones I purchased at the market were quite fat, more in keeping with the American varieties I know, and terrifically sweet and ripe. In American Gardening (1891, A.T. De La Marre Printing and Publishing), there is a hint about making a vinegar as well, which sounds intriguing. For now, I'm sticking with simple shu.

Sumomo Shu
1 kilogram sumomo (plums)
700 grams rock sugar*
1.8 liters white liquor

Soak the plums for a few hours in order to soften the stems for removal. Meanwhile, give the jar (a four liter one in my case) a good scrub and dousing with a freshly boiled kettle of water. Dip each plum in the liquor as a sort of quick disinfectant, and place in the jar immediately. Plop in the sugar and pour on the liquor. Cap and tuck away until winter. Try to remember to give it a good shake every so often to help ensure mixing of the ingredients, and to check out how things are progressing.

A Few Thoughts and a Question
In hindsight, I do wish I'd tossed in a few star anise and a cinnamon stick or two. My hunch is that these would make a lovely flavor with the plums. Ever tried something like that? I'd love to hear more.

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