Ume is the name given to the Chinese plum –a very distinct fruit tree that is related to both apricots and plums.
Originating in the south of China, the tree spread to Korea, Japan and Taiwan where it is today appreciated for the strongly fragrant blossoms and green plums. Salted and dried Ume plums are a Japanese speciality and are made with unripe Ume plums. Pickled with salt, they are tart, slightly sweet but very salty. They are eaten sparingly often with rice or pureed to be added to other ingredients. Picked in June, they are salted and left in barrels to pickle and mature. Ume vinegar is produced from this process as a natural run off from being weighted down in the barrel and while it is not a true vinegar it is appreciated for its salty taste and use in dressings and marinades.
Drying can take anywhere from days to several months to achieve the desired texture. Longer time gives a more salty and chewy texture as opposed to fresher umeboshi.
Umeboshi paste is a perfect ingredient to have in the cupboard for all sorts of cuisines. It adds a tart, salty but fruity taste to a slow cook like a tagine, for a dressing, smear over grilled meats and add to marinades.
5 WAYS WITH UMEBOSHI PASTE
- Ume loves chicken so try smearing some on chicken kebabs as they come hot off the bbq.
- Slow simmered pork loin sliced thinly to serve in wraps with a umeboshi vinaigrette is a great summer time lunch.
- Add 2 tablespoons of umeboshi paste to a meat marinade along with fresh thyme, pepper and lemon.
- Try umeboshi served with grilled fish or seafood to add a tart bright flavour.
- Great with bitter leaves; make a umeboshi dressing to serve with green beans and sesame seeds.