Monday, June 23, 2014

Ume Hachimitsu: The recipe and a few suggested variations

Ume soaking in preparation for hachimitsu-ing.
Ume (Japanese plum) season is winding down as rainy season comes to a close. Starting out green and hard, most shoppers will now find these little round fruits a bit yellow and, on occasion, with a red blush. And while there is plenty of umeshu tucked away in our closets (along with two new variations: rhubarb natsu mikan and ume amanatsu mikan), there was a distinct shortage of ume hachimitsu. A sweet and sour beverage made from honey and vinegar, ume hachimitsu is the best drink on a hot summer day.

Unlike its delicious counterpart, umeshu, ume hachimitsu is alcohol-free so kids can drink it. I used to pour a few tablespoons in a bottle, top it off with water, and pop it in the freezer before going to the bed. The next morning I grabbed it as I headed out to the farm to harvest tomatoes in the greenhouse or trim the eggplants. It cooled and refreshed as well as rehydrated.

 As my husband likes to say, “Move over, lemonade. There’s a new game in town.” 

Ume Hachimitsu 

Ingredients 
1 kilogram ume (Japanese plums)
1 kilogram hachimitsu (honey)
1.8 liters of vinegar

Equipment 
Big glass jar with lid

Soak the plums for a few hours to let any bugs wander out and make it easy to remove any stem bits. Drain, remove the stem bits, and plop in the ume. Pour in the vinegar. Pour in the honey. Put on the lid, label the jar, and set it in a cool, dark place for about a month. Serve with sparkling or regular water. Enjoy!

Caveats and alternative ingredients 
If ume are not readily available, don’t be shy to use something else. Really, I think any fruit would be wonderful, but you might have to play with the ratios a bit to get the desired flavor. Doesn't seem like such a bad job, does it?

I would recommend trying it with the following:
 - rhubarb (I just made an experimental batch of this, and will keep folks posted.)
 - regular plums
 - apples, preferably sour
 - lemons
 - red raspberries

I use rice vinegar because that's what I have in the shops. Standard white vinegar or cider vinegar would work very well, too. I might lean more toward cider vinegar for its softer flavor, but again, experiment away!

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