What is Umeshu?
HISTORY OF UMESHU: EDO Period
Umeshu making first appeared in Edo period (1600 -1868). The recipe books from this era show how to make Umeshu.
Ume plum is delicate and easily damaged after ripening, therefore, is usually picked when young. The young green plum is poisonous and inedible.
As a means of preservations, they were made into umeboshi or umeshu. In the early Edo period, sugar was an expensive commodity to obtain so umeshu was more of a luxury item for people with higher social status.
Late in the period, farmers were encouraged to grow Ume plum not only for personal consumption but also as means of increasing business by producing and selling umeboshi or umeshu and the production of umeshu became common.
(Image: courtesy of Choya)
Following the Meiji era (1869 - 1912) it was made illegal under the alcohol license law to produce alcohol without a license and subsequently, sake has become something to purchase by paying tax.
In 1960s the regulation has been revised that homemade fruits liqueurs are permitted to make only if using the base alcohol of over ABV20% -so that the accidental fermentation of alcohol is less likely.
Homemade liqueurs become legal and this encouraged people to make Umeshu at home widely, using distilled spirits and alcohol such as Shochu or white liquor or brandy, whisky, etc.
HOW TO ENJOY UMESHU?
In Japan, people often opt for homemade Umeshu if they get hold of the fruits. Umeshu is a simple recipe of alcohol + ume plum + sugar at 1kg plum x 0.2-1kg sugar + 1.8L alcohol as typical ratio.
Most umeshu has a steeping period of about a year. Umeshu that has been aged for more than 10 years into alcohol such as brandy is also commercially available. The main difference between homemade and our liqueurs is that our brewers use their own sake as the base alcohol into our blend. With hundreds of years of history in Sake making, it is something homemade Umeshu can never replicate the taste as the outcome varies with the recipes themselves.
The simple and most common way to drink it is on the rocks, add some soda water to your liking.
Umeshu ABV is average around 10-15%