Umeshu, sometimes refereed to as plum wine, is a Japanese liqueur made by allowing unripe fruit or berries to steep in Shōchū, a Japanese distilled beverage, and sugar, for a minimum of three months. It has a sweet, sour, and slightly bitter taste, and may not be to every ones liking. This tutorial will not show you how to make traditional Japanese Umeshu, as I am neither traditional nor Japanese, instead it will leave you with something similar, Umeshuish.
Step 1: The Fruit
Traditional Umeshu is made with green plums, however there is nothing to stop you from using any other fruits or berries, just keep in mind that the produce you use should not be fully ripe. Some recopies call for the plums to be dried, some do not. If you have never had Umeshu, why not make several small batches using several different fruits? In the picture above you will see beverages made with plums, as well as aronia, and juniper berries. Pay no attention to the lemon rumtopf, nobody invited him. I have also experimented with currents, but that bottle was quickly emptied.
Finding suitable fruits or berries may be difficult, as stores will tend to only sell produce at its prime. If you do not have a garden, one way to find it would be to join some fruit sharing community. There are plenty of apps and websites that facilitates communication between fruit lacking people and over productive gardens.
Step 2: The Alcohol
Most shōchū contains 25% alcohol by volume and is typically distilled from rice, which makes sake a suitable substitute. Should you not be able to get your hands on shōchū or sake I suggest simply using a alcohol that you like. Personally I have used both vodka and rum with great results.
Step 3: The Sugar
White, granulated sugar is what I have used in the past, but other types works as well. The sugar adds sweetness whilst working as a preservative, so artificial sweeteners should probably not be used. The amount of sugar can be adjusted to taste, and can even be omitted completely, but that will produce a very bitter umeshu.
Step 4: The Making of
When you have your fruit or berries, your alcohol of choice, and the sugar it is finally time to get started. You will need somewhere between one and two parts of sugar for every two part of fruits and at least enough alcohol to submerge it. You may add more alcohol that that, but not less. Mix your fruits or berries with the sugar and place them in a glass jar. Then, add your alcohol. The recipe is as follows and can be scaled up or down to preference.
1 kg of unripe fruits or berries
0.5-1 kg of sugar
Enough alcohol to cover fruits or berries
The container should be stored in a dark, cool place for a minimum of three months.
Step 5: The Product
The longer you leave the fruit of berries in the alcohol, the better, as in may take up to four years for all the flavours to fully develop. When you are ready to start enjoying your umeshu simply transfer the liquid into bottles and discard of the fruits or berries. The umeshu can be consumed like any other spirit, room temp or on the rocks, plain or diluted with water, or combined with other things in a cocktail.
I hope this tutorial have been helpful and inspiriting to you. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I will make an effort to answer them in a timely fashion.