All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.

2017-05-26

Umeboshi (anzuboshi) / pickled plums (pickled apricots)

Salty and sour umeboshi pickled plums are the standard pickles that often sit in the center of plain steamed rice in bento or in the middle of onigiri rice balls. It is, or once was, one of the staples that each family made itself, especially in the countryside. For us, it was one of many things my grandmother made. My mom eventually started to make her own, and at some point she also started to use ripe apricots (but we continued to call them umeboshi). By the time I was graduating high school, our umeboshi were all apricots. Many years later, I learned that the apricot idea came from our piano teacher, who had a lovely garden filled with all sorts of ornamental and edible plants.


Anzuboshi pickled apricots are fruitier than umeboshi, but they basically taste the same, and people wouldn't notice the difference unless you tell them.

The amount of salt used as the first step varies from 10% and 20% of fruit weight, which assures years of storage at room temperature or cooler. Using less salt is possible when refrigerated during pickling and storage. Salt content of the recipe below is 8% of apricot/plum weight, an easy starting point for a reduced-sodium version. Alcohol (vodka) and rice vinegar are added as extra protection against mold.


1 anzuboshi (16 g with seed, 12 g without seed):
189 mg sodium/12 g flesh


<Ingredients>

12 ripe apricots (387 g in photo)
31 g sea salt (8% of apricot weight)
1 tbsp vodka
1 tbsp rice vinegar

Approx. 30-40 akajiso purple perilla leaves (10-20% of apricots by weight; not in photo)


<Directions>
1.

Gently rinse apricots, remove stems, and dry on zaru tray for several hours.

2.

Place apricots in a durable plastic bag, and add salt, vodka and rice vinegar.

Remove as much air as possible, arrange in a container so that apricots are in single layer.
Put one-size smaller tray or cover, and place weight (rock, or bag of water; approximately the same weight as apricots).
Keep in fridge.  
Flip apricots every few days for even marinating.

After several days, apricots start to release some moisture (do not discard).

3.

When akajiso purple perilla leaves become available in summer, rinse leaves, and dry (in shade or sun).
As long as surface is dry, akajiso is ready to use.

Take some (1-2 tsp) brine from apricot bag, pour it over akajiso, and gently rub (photo below shows broken pieces of akajiso, as leaves were dried too much).

Discard liquid, and repeat once or twice, discarding liquid each time (liquid tends to have harsh taste of akajiso).
Put akajiso between apricots.
Place bag in the fridge for 3-5 weeks or longer.

4.

When several days of nice weather are expected, dry apricots outdoors for 3 nights. (Save brine for later! Akajiso can be dried at the same time to make furikake powder.)
(In photo, larger fruit in front are apricots, and smaller, bluish red fruit at upper right are plums.)
Gently flip apricots a few times every day.
Leave outdoors overnight, unless raining.
Moisture accumulates on fruit surface by following morning, which is supposed to help soften skin.


(Photo: Afternoon on Day 3) 
(Photo: Morning on Day 4)

5.

Place dried apricots in sterilized jar.
Put akajiso and brine (optional).
Keep refrigerated.
Best after 3-4 months.

<Notes>
  • The process is the same for ume plums.
  • When using ume, start picking as they ripen (after skin turns yellow). Otherwise, the skin of final umeboshi will turn out tough, even when dried overnight and covered with morning dew for a few days.
  • If apricots/plums happen to get slightly crushed while pickling and using a weight, they can be fixed by hand when drying at the final stage.
  • When more akajiso is added, the color becomes brighter.
  • If akajiso is not available, umezu or akajiso vinegar can substitute for a similar taste and aroma. Replace some brine with umezu/akajiso vinegar. Both, especially umezu, would add more sodium to the pickle.
  • Some people skip adding akajiso, and dry pickled ume plums as is.
  • High-sodium content umeboshi can be desalinated by soaking in lightly salted water. According to Nagomi, a farm store in Wakayama, sodium content of umeboshi made with 20% salt falls to 12-15% in 12 hours, and 7-10% in 24 hours (changing with new lightly salted water after 12 hours).
  • Umeboshi (plum) rests on top of shinmai new-crop rice in fall at right.
  • In my measurement, salt-converted sodium content of one anzuboshi's flesh is 3.8% (with high precision checker) and 4.% with the other checker. The 4% reading translates into 0.48 g salt (12 [g] x 4 [%] / 100), therefore, each anzuboshi's flesh contains 189 mg sodium (0.48 [g] x 1000 / 2.54).
     

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this recipe, I would really like to give it a try.

I did sow akajiso but they are still tiny, the weather here was weird so I guess they are lagging behind their normal growth-rate. It will take a while until they are large enough for harvest. I hope apricots will still be available then!

neco said...

You can start pickling apricots now and keep them in the salt + vinegar + vodka brine until akajiso is available. For the above, I started pickling apricots in mid May (plums in late May), added akajiso in late July, and dried outdoors in late August.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, good to know! Maybe one can cheat with yukari if the akajiso doesn't yield enough. Let's wait and see.

Do you think I could leave out the vodka and instead add more salt? I know you try to keep sodium low but for me this isn't that important and I don't stock vodka. I guess they sell shot-sized miniature bottles, though, I'll keep an eye out. Regards, Philip

neco said...

Yes, more salt would do. Vodka is just for a precaution anyway.
Yukari is a good idea. You can probably keep apricots in salt until next year too …

Anonymous said...

Thanks! (and apologies for the late reply)

I found a cheap mini bottle vodka by the way.

One (last) question: should the weight on the apricots be in total approx. the weight of the fruit? The plate/tray is in itself quite heavy. My apricots seem to be much larger - or heavier - than yours, eleven of them weighing nearly 700g.

Thanks for all the other new recipes as well.

neco said...

Yes, the total weight of the fruit. It could be heavier than the fruit weight especially when making a large volume where apricots are placed in multiple layers. If the weight (anything placed on apricots) seems too heavy or to completely smash apricots’ flesh, you can go with a lighter weight. Some people don’t bother using weight (but probably use a standard amount of salt). The weight is to help the fruit let out its liquid, and once some liquid comes out, the weight can be reduced or removed.

Congratulations on the mini vodka bottle! Sorry if I made you go through some trouble finding it.

Anonymous said...

Don't know if you're interested, here an up-date. I have 3 bags of apricots pickling in the fridge. I added yukari and a bit of umezu I had sitting in the fridge anyway and I might add more akajiso. The smaller apricots look especially promising, they already show this slightly wrinkled-moist umeboshi look. The only problem - and totally my own fault - is that I haven't labled the bags and hence don't know exactly how much salt I used (I went for roughly 10%) and when I started the pickling process. Could have been helpful for further reference. I plan to put them out on their three nights outside around the end of August. Weather-depending.

As for the vodka: it was no trouble at all and required simply strolling through the booze aisles at the supermarket. Put my naive question down to my ignorance. I don't drink alcohol as I don't really like the taste of most alcoholic beverages but of course I use sake and hon-mirin.

Philip

neco said...

Hi Philip,
Thank you for the update. My apricots are happily getting akajiso color in the fridge. In the meantime, you can take some liquid (umezu) and pickle fresh ginger (salted or sun-dried to first eliminate excess water content) to make benishoga. I made mine with apricot umezu, and the pickled ginger tastes fruity instead of salty like store-bought ones. I am planning to pair the ginger with fresh peach in daifuku.Not sure how it would turn out ...