Typically made with pink double blossoms, sakura no hana no shiozuke can simply be salted or salted and marinated in rice vinegar or umezu (the liquid produced in the process of making umeboshi pickled plums).
Below I used red umezu and the semi-double white blossoms of Prunus serrulata 'Shirotae' (commonly known as Mt. Fuji) from my garden. Cherry blossoms are first salted to extract excess water, followed by marinating in red umezu; they are then dried and preserved in salt. The salt used to preserve blossoms takes on their scent, and can be used as aromatic salt in a number of dishes.
1 tbsp + 1 tsp salt (1 tbsp salt per 50 g cherry blossoms)
2 tbsp red umezu purple perilla plum vinegar (amount equal to or greater than salt)
5-6 tbsp salt (for preserving pickled cherry blossoms; not in photo)
Pick sets of 2-3 blossoms that are 60-80% open.
Put cherry blossoms in a large bowl, and gently rinse with cold water by pushing them down into water with your palm.
Gently pat dry blossoms with cloth. (Leaving some water is OK, but not an excessive amount.)
In a container, put cherry blossoms, sprinkle salt, and repeat until all cherry blossoms are placed.
Let sit overnight or two nights.
Gently squeeze excess water from cherry blossoms.
Cover with parchment paper, and place a lighter weight (150 g water in Ziploc bag).
Very lightly squeeze out red umezu (to the point where it no longer drips), lay cherry blossoms in a single layer on a zaru strainer or plate, and dry in the shade outside for 1-3 days until blossoms are basically dry but still moist to the touch. (When the weather is dry here, one or one and a half days of drying is usually enough.)
In an airtight jar, put a small amount of salt, add cherry blossoms, and repeat until all cherry blossoms are placed.
Top with salt, and seal.
- Picking sets of multiple blossoms makes it easy to handle blossoms in the pickling process. Sets of two blossoms are the most common, probably because salted cherry blossoms are often used for a wedding-related celebratory tea.
- Umezu literally means plum vinegar, but it is actually not vinegar at all (umezu does not contain acetic acid). It is the salty and sour liquid that comes out of plums in the pickling process.
- Umezu comes in two types, white and red; these are produced before and after adding purple perilla leaves in process of making picked plums. If you use pink cherry blossoms, white umezu gives a lighter color (close to the color of actual blossoms), and red umezu intensifies the red hue.
- If umezu is not available, you can use rice vinegar alone or a combination of rice vinegar and umeboshi pickled plums (1 umeboshi per 1-2 tbsp rice vinegar). Using umeboshi, however, adds little color to blossoms.
- Salted cherry blossoms keep 1 year or longer. Blossom color fades when kept longer.
- When the time comes to use salted cherry blossoms, they are quickly desalinated. Desalination liquid is sometimes used as an ingredient in certain dishes.
- There is also an alternative method of marinating cherry blossoms for several days in salt and vinegar from the beginning (photo at right). For the amount above, you will need approximately 6 tbsp red umezu as a marinade. After marinating, dry blossoms in a shady area as above.
Recipes with sakura no hana no shiozuke
- Sakura daifuku / soft rice cake with cherry blossom bean paste
- Sakura shiokoji gohan / steamed rice with salted cherry blossoms (salted rice malt version)
- Sakura gohan / steamed rice with salted cherry blossoms
(Last updated: April 9, 2016)