Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Green Plums For Umeboshi Nontraditional

Some time last year, probably during the winter, a storm broke the limbs on the plum tree in the school yard. This spring I noticed that the fallen limbs were loaded with green plums.

The plums had actually made the break worse with their weight.



 I couldn't imagine they would ever ripen so I filled a few bags and hit the internet in search of what to do with green plums.

  I love umeboshi plums and vinegar. I knew that umeboshi plums were unripe plums but I also found out that they are actually a type of apricot. Some makers of umeboshi plum and vinegar do adapt the recipes using green plums. I wanted a ume type vinegar for cooking and I love the paste when I get sick, I use it like medicine, and I imagine the health benefits of the plums are close to the same no matter how they are processed as long as they're not processed to death. The traditional methods for making umeboshi the are pretty extensive, and involve a lot of waiting,  I'm not quite that patient. So  I also found some really old recipes for "fake olives" made from green plums using salt brine for pickling, some middle eastern recipes called for a vinegar, water and salt brine and traditional umeboshi plums are salted and pressed under weights until they are pickled in their own juice.
So I tried them all, I had enough plums enough jars and enough salt .

All the recipes called for soaking over night in cold water after a good wash


 After the soaking, I salted some of them and let them make their own juice, the traditional way. This accumulation of juice takes a lot of salt. You want it on all of the plums, sprinkle it generously between layers as you put them in the jar.

this is "lightly salted" compared to some traditional ones I saw


24 hours in the salt


48 hours in salt with weight 



72 hours in salt with weight 


 72 hours...


It also takes a long time and a lot of weight to press the juice out. I used smaller glass jars filled with water as weights and pressed them down a few times a day with all of my weight.

A small glass jar full of water which will fit inside the jar of plums can be used for weight. Cover with a cloth




 That was the traditional way, the next step called for draining the "liquor" and dehydrating the plums...traditionally this is done in a bamboo basket in the sun. I didn't do this. I'm sorry to say I lost this batch to mold eventually because I left it in the liquid too long. Please don't ask, I've moved on, and I've learned from my mistakes.If you want a good tutorial for traditional umeboshi plums it's here



My second experiment was with a vinegar salt brine, like my favorite pickles



and a salt water brine  






I started these two batches following the recipes for pickled plums but without any added spices or flavorings, I really wanted traditional ume vinegar flavor. Both recipes called for reheating the liquid and pouring over the plums while still scalding hot, for 3 days in a row. By the third day I wanted to add spices so I added red pepper flakes, garlic slices,mustard seed, celery seeds and black pepper. After a few weeks of fermenting in cool room temperatures, the recipes called for pouring off the liquid and putting the pickles into cold storage (the fridge). I put them in the fridge and forgot them for a few months and just recently dragged them out, and combined both jars...During the entire process from start to finish there has been no mold or yeast growth (too salty) So......here's what I have now.

The plums are dehydrated and giving off their "liquor"  which smells and tastes exactly like umeboshi vinegar (plus the spices I added)


 This is almost a half gallon.


Lots of spices added Yummmm!


 The plums are not at all soft like umeboshi plums, and they're not like olives, they are crispy like a good cucumber or green tomato pickle. And they're delicious!


Next year when the plums are green I'll just press the juice the traditional way and drain it and refrigerate for a few months. No spices for a more traditional vinegar, and maybe make a small batch of the spicy ones.