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Making Homemade Japanese Fruit Liqueur

The product we used:

Fresh For Summer Liqueurs, Made at Home

Drying plums with a towel

The arrival of fresh plums in super markets signals the start of umeshu-making season here in Japan. Umeshu is a traditional Japanese liqueur made from steeping ume (Japanese plums) in alcohol, typically shochu or distilled liquor, along with sugar. The process of making umeshu involves a few simple steps. In this article, I'll provide a step by step guide for making homemade umeshu.

You're going to need a bottle

For this article, I'm using a 4 liter (approximately 1 gallon) glass liquor bottle by Toyo-Sasaki. It has a couple of features that make liqueur life simple.

  1. A large handle for carrying and moving the bottle.
  2. An inner lid with a spout for easy pouring.

Just keep in mind that neither the bottle nor the plastic lid are heat-resistant. That means:

  1. Don't microwave them.
  2. Don't wash them in a dishwasher.
  3. Don't sterilize them using boiling water.

With that out of the way, let's start making some umeshu.

Making Umeshu

Toyo-Sasaki bottle, plums, sugar, and liquor

Here's our recipe.

Ingredients:

1 kilogram (about 2.2 lbs) of ume (Japanese plums) 1 kilogram (about 2.2 lbs) of rock sugar (or granulated sugar) 1.8 liters of shochu or vodka (around 35-40% alcohol content) A glass bottle or container with an airtight lid Instructions:

Wash and dry plums.

Wash and dry plums. Removing stem from plum with toothpick Dry with a cloth towel.

Remove leaves. Remove stems. The stems are usually removed with a toothpick. Dry with a cloth towel.

Clean the bottle.

As I said earlier, if you use the Toyo-Sasaki bottle, don't sterilize with boiling water. Umeshu is typically made using liquor with a high-alcohol content. The alcohol in the liquor will do the sterilizing for you.

Place whole plums and sugar in the bottle.

Place whole plums and sugar in the bottle. Plums and sugar placed in layers inside bottle

The plums and sugar are usually layered on top of each other as in the picture here.

Pour the shochu or vodka into the bottle.

Pouring liquor into bottle with plums and sugar

Make sure the plums are fully submerged. The alcohol acts as a preservative and extracts the flavors from the plums.

Seal and store the bottle.

Seal the bottle tightly with the lid and store it in a cool, dark place. Avoid exposing the umeshu to direct sunlight.

Your work is done. Now, for the difficult part:

Wait.

Allow the umeshu to ferment for at least three months, but ideally six months to a year. During this time, the flavors from the plums will infuse into the alcohol, creating a delicious liqueur.

More Fruits, More Possibilities

Plums, sugar, and liquor placed in bottle

While plums are a popular fruit to use for this kind of liqueur, you can use many other kinds of fruits. Cherries, berries, peaches, pineapples, and citrus fruits can all be used to make liqueurs like umeshu. Start planning which fruit you'll use for your next liqueur while you're waiting for your umeshu to ferment.

Check back later...

As you can see, we made some umeshu for this article. When our umeshu is ready, I'll write a follow-up article to give my impression as a first-time drinker of the Japanese beverage.

The product we used:

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