This is an amazing fermented food that I discovered by accident last summer.  We had a huge plum harvest and I needed a recipe for preserving the hundreds of plums that were ripening fast!  I came across a recipe for umeboshi.  Ume is a Japanese fruit that’s preserved or fermented and typically used as a condiment with rice and fish, beverages and broths.  The umeboshi recipe results in an extremely sour, salty, sweet product, which may not sound very appealing, but it is.  It’s really good.  Apparently you can make this sweeter by adding honey.  I just went with the traditional recipe, but adapted it to work with our plums.  The recipe I found was from Food & Wine, so not ume authentic, but we liked how it turned out.  My hope is to sample this same food from someone who has been making it the traditional way and compare.

Of course, we don’t have ume, so as I mentioned, I used our purple plums for this recipe, along with shiso, anise, cinnamon, and fennel.  The color is gorgeous. The fermenting process is about 5 – 6 weeks and will last for up to 6 months in your pantry.  It’s an easy, painless process for preserving plums. The standard way of enjoying umeboshi is with rice, in rice balls wrapped in nori, in tea, and as a condiment to soups and broths.  As a remedy to colds and flu, Japanese families will top congee with umeboshi for breakfast and/or lunch  The healing properties are amazing. because the salt, citric acid, and polyphenols contribute to antimicrobial activity.  It is believed to be a natural remedy for bacterial stomach problems, as well as an aid in increasing energy, help with digestion, cure hangovers and slow down aging.  The syrup that results can be used in beverages such as an additive to tea, an enhancement to sparkling water or in cocktails much like a shrub.  (please check our the blog post on shrubs ~ another great fermented food idea).  It’s also great in dressings and sweet syrups. Or right out of the jar. I enjoyed this with steamed rice scooped into shiso leaves with bite sized pieces of grilled trout, green onion, chilis and toasted sesame seeds.

There are foods prepared in similar ways from other countries such as with Indian gooseberries called amla in the Hindi or Amala in Nepali.  In Mexico, apricots and tamarind are used with salt, sugar and chilis to make chamoy. Chamoy is used as a condiment for a wide variety of foods ranging from fresh fruit to potato chips to nuts and tostilocos, which is a very popular street food made with tortilla chips topped with jicama, cucumber, pork rind and chamoy.

Let us know what you think!

Give this recipe a try and let us know what you think, If you adapted it in any way AND how you used it as a condiment or additive to beverages ~ we’d love to know,

Here’s the Umeboshi Recipe from Food & Wine :

  • Four 1-pint canning jars with lids and rings
  • 2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 packed cups dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt 2 1/2 pounds firm-but-ripe plums, pitted and cut into eight wedges each
  • 8 cloves 4 star anise pods
  • One 2-inch cinnamon stick, broken into 4 pieces
  • 2 teaspoons pink peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Fill a large pot with water, cover and bring to a boil. Add the canning jars, lids and rings along with a set of tongs and a ladle and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes to sterilize. Cover the pot and turn off the heat.  Set a metal rack in another large pot. Fill the pot with water, cover and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine both vinegars with the brown sugar and salt and bring to a boil to dissolve. Using the sterilized tongs, remove the jars from the hot water and transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet. Pack the plums, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns and fennel seeds into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch at the top. Ladle the hot brine over the plums, stopping 1/2 inch from the top. Using the tongs, screw the lids and rings on the jars securely but not too tightly.  Using canning tongs, lower the jars onto the rack in the boiling water, making sure they are covered by 1 inch of water. Boil over high heat for 20 minutes. Using the canning tongs, transfer the jars to a rack to cool until the lids seal (they will be concave); refrigerate any jars that do not seal. Store the sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.