Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ume Miso

Ume Miso (First week )

Yep, this is one of those food fads in Japan AGAIN. Every now and then, a certain home-made food or a drink becomes very popular throughout this country and you find the food/drink in almost every household, such as Caspian Sea yogurt or shiso (perilla) drink -- just to name a few? (Well, maybe the shiso drink was popular in rural areas but not so much in big cities? Shiso is expensive when bought at the stores, so the juice was popular among those who grow the herb themselves.) Now it’s time for this “ume miso,” and I was able to jump on the bandwagon at the very, very last minute.

Usually I don’t join a fad too easily. I did try Caspian Sea yogurt but I didn’t care for the taste very much. As for the shiso drink, I had to -- still have to -- consume some of the result of my mom’s persistent work every summer, so there is absolutely no need for me to make it myself. But this ume miso is different. I decided to make some right away when mom told me that she made a great success at the feast for a Buddhist ceremony in my hometown. She made nuta (blanched green onions and boiled squid dressed with vinegar-miso dressing) with her ume miso dressing. The salad bowl was emptied quickly, according to her, and a few female relatives came to her asking for the recipe. Gosh, then I’ve got to give it a try right now!

I guess some of you may know “ume miso” as miso (fermented soybean paste) mixed with umeboshi (very salty, pickled Japanese ume plums) paste. That’s the traditional one often used for traditional Japanese dishes. But this “ume miso” is different; it is made from fresh ume plums and seems to be used as a versatile dressing.

What you do is VERY simple. You wash and pat dry fresh ume plums and pickle them in miso and sugar. The proportion of the weight of the ume, sugar and miso is basically 1:1:1. If you use 1 kg ume (unseeded), use 1 kg miso and 1 kg sugar. You might want to use less sugar when using ripe, yellow ume instead of green ones. That’s it. Now some instructions on the net say “Cook ume with miso and sugar,” but others say “Just place ume, miso, sugar alternately in a jar and let it rest.”
Of course mom and I went for the easier method. Mom said she didn’t even stir it at all, but I do stir the paste once a day as recommended on some recipe websites.

It looked like this photo in the beginning, and in a few days, the juice came out from the fresh ume plums made the paste quite runny as in the top photo. Some say that the miso will be ready in a month and others say half a year, so I'm going to try it in three months or so. :P

I wanted to use green ume so badly, because the paste would be more fragrant that way, but it was already the end of ume season when I gave it a go and I couldn’t even find ripe ones anywhere. I was so delighted when I finally found one stall at the Sunday Market selling a few bags of the last ume plums of this season. The old lady at the stall said, “Oh, you’re going to make ume miso?” as she gave me the change.
Yeah, a bandwagon. Really. ;)



cookiecrumb said...

Seriously? Do you know how much this old American lady (me) wants to try some?
I discovered a plum tree in my yard (we recently moved). I don't know if it's officially ume, but the plums are small, yellow, and probably difficult. (Hee hee.)
This would be perfect.

obachan said...

Come on, you are not old, cookiecrumb. ;)
If your tree is not ume but regular plum, maybe the miso paste with your plums will turn out very sweet... too sweet? But it may lead us to a new invention. Who knows?
PLS keep us updated if you give it a try.

feedme said...

Hi Obachan,
I'm going to try this with the plums on our tree, the fruits are not fuzzy and quite sour is that okay? These ugly fruits are definitely unripe. By the way do you recommend pitting the plum, and do you refrigerate the concoction or just let it sit in the shade?

obachan said...

Hi Jacy,

Glad to hear from another risk-taker (LOL) but honestly, I sure don’t know what it would be like if you use unripe plums in place of unripe ume plums. I can only imagine that the fragrance would be different, but have no idea how different.

Maybe it’s safer to soak your unripe plums in water for apx. 3 hours or more (or overnight) before pickling them. Some ume miso recipes using unripe ume tell us to do so to remove the harshness, so the same may apply to your plums.

I read that unripe ume contains a poison called amygdalin but the amount is so little that it does not kill you even if you eat an unripe ume as-is. (It is said to take 100 to 300 green ume to kill one person with its amygdalin.) The poison degrades while ume is being pickled in salt or miso & sugar mixture, so there is no need to worry about this ume miso being poisonous, they say. And yes, the seeds contain more amygdalin, but you don’t eat the seeds so it doesn’t matter. None of the recipes I saw said “pit the ume” and I think it is the same with your plums. It is, after all, just letting the plum extract blend with miso and sugar, and looks like many people take out the plums when they are brown and shrunk and miso paste becomes runny as in this photo (top).

Some recipes say “store in fridge” but others just say “store in cool place.” I keep mine in the fridge just to be safe because my kitchen is not air-conditioned and there is no “cool place” there in summer.
Hope this helps. :)

Jason Truesdell said...

If the plum isn't fuzzy, it's not ume... ume are actually a variety of apricot, though still part of that prunus category. Anzu (apricot) might be interesting, too.

Plums might make a good combination with miso, too, though. Perhaps like a barbecue sauce.

The O.G. said...

Wow Obachan ume miso sounds like such a great idea. I missed out on the ume season this year, so no home made umeboshi or umeshu for me this year. Hopefully next year, guess I could try to make some nuta with bainiku and miso and see what happens. I have to write an article about umeboshi today and I can't get going. maybe a cup of coffee is needed.

obachan said...

Jason Truesdell
Thank you for the info. I didn’t know that ume was a variety of apricot, but it does make sense.

I’m so curious about how the plum version of ume miso would turn out. Yeah, I, too, think it would be nice with meat.

The o.g.
Oh, Hi! So nice to hear from you, Mr. Food.
Talking about bainiku and miso, I have tried tonkatsu with bainiku-miso sandwiched between two (rather thin) pieces of pork. It was sooo good.

I hope the coffee helped you write a great umeboshi article. ;)

Laurel said...

Hi Obachan, how did your ume miso turn out last summer. I am thinking about trying to make some this year. Do you have any suggestions for how to use the ume miso? Can you share your mom's salad dressing with us?

obachan said...

Hi Laurel,
Terriby sorry about this late response. My ume miso turned out OK last year, and I used it for dressing. This makes great sumiso (vinegar-miso) dressing. I like using it for "nuta" which is a salad with blanched green onion and boiled seafood. Here's a recipe, if you're interested. And you could substitute the miso in the recipe with ume-miso, and adjust the amount of sugar and vinegar depending on how sweet/sour your ume-miso is. Or actually you could use your ume-miso alone to season this dish without adding any sugar, miso or vinegar. Hope you like this recipe.

And sorry, I can't share my mom's recipe. She does not measure anything when she cooks, so it's so hard or almost impossible to write a recipe. The way she tells me how to cook something is like, "Add A as much as you like, then add B until you think it tastes good, and mix in C until you feel it's enough." Thanx mom.

Anonymous said...

Obachan, I have searched everywhere on your blog, and can't find a recipe for umeboshi! I'm in the process of trying to decide whether to make umeboshi or umeshuu this summer, and need to find recipes I can trust! Have you posted about them and I've just missed it somewhere? I'd love to know how to make honey umeboshi, as I tried them from the store recently and they're delicious!!! I hope you'll post a recipe! ^_^

obachan said...

Hi.It's no surprise that you couldn't find any umeboshi recipe here because I've never posted one. My family is not too crazy about umeboshi, and we buy them at the store when we need some.

I can google and find some honey umeboshi recipes for you, if you give me some time, but I would never know if I could trust them or not. And I can't picture myself making honey umeboshi. It must be really difficult and mine would never taste like store-bought ones.

Christy Kuratomi said...

I hope you don't mind that I made a link on our orchard blog to your ume miso recipe. It's here at

Last year someone brought us some ume miso that was really delicious, so we're going to make it ourselves this year. Thanks for writing this, are you posting updates still?