I fell in love with japanese plum liqueur umeshu on our first (and hopefully not the last) trip to Japan seven years ago. I wanted an umeshu on the rocks at every stop on the way! Now I’m not a big fan of any sweet liqueur out there, but there’s just something irresistible about the sour and sweet aromas umeshu has. Once back in Finland, things have continued the same. If a place serves umeshu, I’ll be ordering it for sure.
Once I realized that umeshu is often home made in Japan, it didn’t take long for me to figure out a way to make it at home here in Finland too! It actually isn’t all that difficult … although, accessing ume plums is nearly impossible. A quick trip to a store specializing in Turkish ingredients around this time of year is however a way to solve the problem! See, a liqueur made with the small tart and sour green plums they sell gives you a very similar taste to umeshu!Jump to Recipe
You need just three ingredients to make homemade umeshu. Greengage plums, white rock sugar, and alcohol. Well, to be honest, there is a fourth ingredient, and that is time. Homemade plum liqueur takes at least half a year to develop its flavors. But it’s worth the wait!
If you can get your hands on actual ume plums, that would be ideal. But greengage plums really are a good substitute! They are sold here in Helsinki in Turkish grocery stores under the name Yeşil Erik. And whilst shopping, pop by a grocery store specializing in Asian ingredients – at least here that would be the place to find rock sugar. I’ve been opting for vodka as the alcohol, but you can of course also use japanese distilled spirits such as shōchū for a more “authentic” “umeshu”. In any case, the alcohol content should be over 35%!
Apparently homemade umeshu is best sweetend with rock sugar, because it dissolves into the alcohol slowly. The slow process gives more aromas due to osmotic pressure, but since I’m really not an expert on this topic I recommend anyone interested in hopping to Chopstick chronicles for more information on this! If I understood correctly, whilst the sugar is yet not dissolved, the alcohol seeps better into the fruits, steeping the aromas out of them. Once the sugar is dissolved, the flavored alcohol is then pulled out of the fruits into the liqueur. Or something like that? I don’t really know but I’m definitely not questioning the science!
So, rock sugar it is. The recommended amount is 50-80% of the weight of the plums. Because I’m not so fond of sweets, I’ve stuck to 50% with my batches. Once the rock sugar, greengages and alcohol has been acquired, it’s time to make homemade umeshu! You should wash and soak the plums for a few hours, then pluck out their stems. Remove all plums that have bruises. Layer the plums with the rock sugar and cover up with the alcohol, then all you need to do is wait.
Greengage liqueur in the style of umeshu
The homemade umeshu from last year is now been steeping for a year and it tastes wonderful! I’m drinking it sparingly, a little goblet at a time, served with some ice. The flavor is clearly reminiscent of umeshu, but there’s a dose of blackcurrant leaves and rhubarb in there too. All things I love! Now I just have to wait a whole year for the next batch to get ready … needless to say, I made way more this time than last time!
Greengage liqueur aka homemade "umeshu"
- 1,5 litre glass jar
- 400 g unripe greengage plums
- 200 g white rock sugar
- 6 dl vodka (at least 35% abv)
- Sterilize the glass jar and it's lid with boiling water and swirl around a splash of vodka in the jar and the lid.
- Wash the plums and soak a few hours. Then remove their stems and take out all the bruised fruits. Layer the fruits in the jar with the rock sugar, then pour over the vodka, submerging the plums.
- Put the jar in a dark room temperature cabinet and shake it once per day for the first 2-3 days. Then leave the jar to steep for at least half a year, or even longer to develop the flavors.
- Serve the homemade umeshu on the rocks, or with some soda water. I often squeeze in some lemon, lime or yuzu too!