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Plum Wine (Umeshu) 梅酒 – ‘Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories’

Plum Wine or Umeshu (梅酒) is a Japanese liqueur made by steeping fresh Japanese plum (ume) in shochu/white liquor and sugar. The sweet and sour flavors with the fruity aroma are very appealing and you can make many kinds of drinks with it! Inspired by the Japanese drama – Midnight Diner.

Japanese plum wine (umeshu) in a glass jar.

It’s the Japanese plum (ume) season! I remember my grandma made plum wine or umeshu (梅酒) and stored it in the cool dark underground storage of her kitchen until they’re ready to be enjoyed. There were several big jars of umeshu from different years.

This sweet alcohol drink was featured on the popular Japanese TV program called “Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂)” or “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories” which is available on Netflix.

Midnight Diner features dishes that are more representative of Japanese home-cooked recipes that you might not have seen in your local Japanese restaurants. “Sour Plum & Plum Wine” episode is Season 1, Episode 6 on Netflix.

Watch How to Make Japanese Plum Wine (Umeshu)

Plum Wine or Umeshu (梅酒) is a Japanese liqueur made by steeping fresh Japanese plum (ume) in shochu/white liquor and sugar.

What is Umeshu (Japanese Plum Wine)?

From the mid-May to early June, it’s ume (Japanese plum) season here in California. During this short period of time when fresh ume is available, the Japanese make plum wine, or what we call Umeshu (梅酒) with still unripe and green plums.

I’m not much of a drinker, but I do enjoy drinking homemade umeshu from time to time. Have you tried it before? If you visited Japan and stayed at a ryokan (Japanese-style inn), you might have tried this drink before your kaiseki meal (懐石料理) as an aperitif, or Shokuzen-shu (食前酒).

It’s SUPER easy to make this homemade fruit wine, less than 15 minutes! Okay, I also should mention that you have to wait for at least 6 months (1 year is recommended) before you enjoy your homemade plum wine… but it’s SO worth it. Plus you get to share homemade umeshu with your guests when they come over. Let’s make it with me this year (share your photo with #justonecookbook on Instagram) so we can celebrate and enjoy together at this time next year! You and me!

Japanese plum wine (umeshu) in a crystal glass.

3 Ingredients to Make Umeshu at Home

It’s just 3 simple ingredients to make umeshu at home. You can get all these ingredients at Japanese grocery stores. If they carry green plums, they also know that you’ll need the special rock sugar, liquor, and the glass jar.

1. Green plums

You have to use these tart and sour green plums to make the plum wine, and not any other types of plums you see in the store. Both Japanese and Korean grocery stores sell these plums during this season, so keep an eye on these plums in May.

These raw green plums are not edible as they are too tart and bitter (also if you eat too many of them, it is said you’ll likely have stomachache). We only take the extract of the fruits by fermenting with lots of sugar or salt.

If you live in the Bay Area, you can contact John (415-297-1558 or sudachi.loverATgmailDOTcom) at Indian Valley Organic Farm to reserve your ume now for $6-8 per pound (up to 15 lbs and quantities above 15 lbs would be at a wholesale price (TBA)). The pickup location will be in San Rafael. The harvest date fluctuates, but he anticipates a harvest date in early to mid May.

2.White Rock Sugar/Candy

Instead of regular white sugar, we use white rock sugar/candy to make plum wine. Rock sugar takes time to dissolve, which helps to extract the flavors and fragrance from the plums at a slower pace. You can buy it on Amazon if your local Japanese/Asian grocery stores don’t carry it. You could also use white granulated sugar but remember that it’ll not taste as good. I would encourage you to find rock sugar as you invest your time (once a year) to make this drink.

 

3. Distilled Spirits/Liquor

To make plum wine, we need neutral, colorless, near-flavorless distilled spirits/liquor such as shochu (焼酎) and vodka. Make sure it is at least 35% ABV (alcohol by volume) or 70 proof. The plum wine could become spoiled when alcohol percentage go down being diluted by the fruit juice from the plum.

In Japan, we have a liquor called “White Liquor” (ホワイトリカー), which we use for making plum wine or fruit wine. If you can’t find it, don’t sweat it and use shochu or vodka.

Shochu is a Japanese distilled beverage with less than 45% by alcohol by volume. It’s typically distilled from rice, barley, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, or brown sugar.

How About Glass Jar?

You can get this on Amazon or Japanese grocery stores during the green plum season.

Japanese plum wine (umeshu) in a crystal glass.
How To Enjoy Umeshu
After a year, you can finally get to enjoy your plum wine. The flavor and fragrance of the plum wine ripen as it ages, so make sure to store in a cool, dark place for years to come! You might want to start making two batches if you can’t stop drinking it. 😉

Umeshu can be served at different temperatures; chilled or with ice, room temperature, or even hot in the winter.

Umeshu On the Rocks (梅酒ロック): Put a big ice cube in a glass and pour the plum wine.
Umeshu Sour (梅酒サワー): Mix the plum wine with ume-flavor shochu and soda water.
Umeshu Tonic (梅酒トニック) Mix 30 ml plum wine with 90 ml tonic water.
Umeshu Soda (梅酒ソーダ割り): Mix one part plum wine with one part carbonated water.
Umeshu Oyuwari (梅酒お湯割り): Mix one part plum wine with one part warm water.
Umeshu Ochawari (梅酒お茶割り): Mixed one part plum wine with one part hot/cold black or green tea.

May 2018 (12 months!) – To make a video above, we opened and tasted the plum wine, which is why the wine is slightly reduced. 🙂
What To Do with the Plums in the Wine?
After 12 months of making delicious plum wine, the plums are ready to retire. Your plums did a tremendous job making your delicious plum wine for a year. Now that their job is done, it doesn’t mean it’s time to toss them away. This amazing stone fruit is the fruit that never stops giving.

You can totally eat the ume plums from the wine! Serve them with your plum wine so you can nibble them while you drink, but if you’re looking into other ways to utilize those used plums, here are some ideas on how to consume them.

Make jams for your breakfast toasts, yogurt, gelatin dessert
Bake a cake with plums (just like other fruit cakes)
Make cocktails with crushed plums
Use in savory dishes
Plum jam in a white small bowl. Plum jam in a jar and plum wine in the back.

 

Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.

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4.84 from 12 votes
Japanese plum wine (umeshu) in a glass jar.
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PLUM WINE
Prep Time 15 mins Resting Time 365 d

Plum Wine or Umeshu is a Japanese liqueur made by steeping fresh Japanese plum (ume) in shochu/white liquor and sugar. The sweet and sour flavors with fruity aroma is very appealing and you can make many kinds of drinks with it! Inspired by the Japanese drama – Midnight Diner.

Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: plum drink, umeshu
Servings: 2 L
Author: Nami
INGREDIENTS

1 kg green plums (2.2 lb)
800 g white rock sugar (1.8 lb)
1.8 L shochu (Need 3 Shochu bottles, with 450 ml leftover; 7.5 cups; You can substitute with vodka, Japanese “white liquor”, or any distilled spirit/liquor above 35% ABV “alcohol by volume”)
With 2 Shochu Bottles (750 ml x 2 – You’ll need a 3-L glass jar)
834 g green plums (1.8 lb)
667 g white rock sugar (1.5 lb)
1.5 L shochu (Need entire 2 bottles, no leftover; 6.3 cups)
Ume Syrup (for children)
1 kg green plums (2.2 lb)
1 kg white rock sugar (2.2 lb)

Remove the plums from the jar and use them for other recipes. You can leave them in the jar for 2-3 years as long as you use green plum (firm and not ripen) and 35% alcohol. (the liquid in the jar is a bit less in the photo because I had to pour some out for filming the video)

umeshu 1 year Just One Cookbook

What should we do with the used plums?
You can make Plum Jam by cooking the plum and sugar (spread on toast, add in yogurt, make gelatin dessert), or bake a cake with it, make cocktails with crushed plums, or use in savory dishes.

For Ume Syrup

Follow the same steps until step 7. Seal, write today’s date on the jar, and store in a cool, dark place (no refrigerator) for 7-10 days. Shake the jar sometimes during this time.

On the 7th day, remove the plums from the jar before fruits go bad.

Strain the plum and syrup in a fine strainer over a large pot. Keep the plums.

Simmer (not boil) for 15-20 minutes on low heat. Let it cool and the syrup is done.

To drink you can dilute with club soda or water. To store, keep syrup in a sterilized airtight jar in the refrigerator up to 6 months.

RECIPE NOTES

Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.

 

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