Japanese Pickled Plums
Mitoku Umeboshi Plums are entirely handmade with great care, according to the traditional farmhouse method. Gathered in remote mountain orchards from trees that have never known chemicals, they have a wild quality, and are exceptionally potent and flavorful. The food that epitomizes the adage: "food is your best medicine." Umeboshi has been recognized by the Japanese as a powerful medicinal food for thousands of years, and is the highest known source of citric acid.
Uses: Umeboshi plums are used as a condiment, a zesty seasoning for salad dressings, veggies, pickles, sauces, spreads, dips, inserted in the center of rice balls (onigiri), or to make a Japanese medicinal tea.
Cooking with Ume
Umeboshi and umeboshi paste are lively and versatile seasonings that add a pleasant tartness to salad dressings, cooked vegetables, and sauces. Umeboshi is also commonly served in Japan as a condiment with rice, or tucked inside a rice ball wrapped with nori. In the summer, thick cucumber rounds spread thinly with umeboshi paste are a cooling treat. Sparingly spread on cooked sweet corn, it is a delicious, healthful alternative to butter and salt. Umeboshi also goes well with members of the cabbage family, including broccoli, kale, and cauliflower.
When using whole pickled plums, it is usually necessary to remove the pit and mince the flesh before adding it to recipes. Umeboshi paste, another product offered under the Mitoku brand, can be substituted for umeboshi in virtually any recipe.
The shiso leaves that are often packaged with umeboshi are also delicious when chopped and used as a seasoning inside nori rolls or when tossed in with steamed or sautéed vegetables.
Plum vinegar, also known as Umeboshi vinegar or ume-su, contains many of the healing qualities and nutrients associated with pickled plums, and it is easy and convenient to use. Both pleasantly tart and salty, umeboshi vinegar is a versatile seasoning that is especially refreshing on hot afternoons. Use umeboshi vinegar to liven up salad dressings, homemade quick pickles, and tofu spreads. It adds a pleasantly pungent flavor to cooked leafy greens (especially cabbage), cauliflower, broccoli, and green beans. Steam, boil, or sauté vegetables until tender but still colorful. Drain if necessary, place in a serving bowl, and toss with umeboshi vinegar to taste. When substituting umeboshi vinegar for other types of vinegar, substantially reduce the amount used, or eliminate the salt in the recipe. The following recipes will help you become familiar with umeboshi and umeboshi vinegar and will soon have you discovering new ways to use these delicious and healthful seasonings.
Braised Cabbage With Ume
Umeboshi goes particularly well with vegetables in the cabbage family and with daikon radish.
1/2 head medium-sized cabbage
2 teaspoons Mitoku Virgin Sesame Oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Mitoku Umeboshi Paste or minced Umeboshi Plums.
Cut the cabbage half in half again lengthwise. Remove and thinly slice the core. Cut cabbage quarters crosswise into 1/8-1/4-inch slices. Heat oil in a frying pan, add umeboshi, and sauté briefly. Add cabbage and toss with umeboshi. (At first, umeboshi will not disperse evenly, but as you continue tossing and sautéeing, it will evenly coat cabbage.) After sautéeing, if no juice has come out of the cabbage, add a little water, cover, and simmer over low heat until tender (15-20 minutes). Serve hot.
Makes 1 cup
This is a refreshing summer dressing for tossed salads and noodle salads.
3 level tablespoons Mitoku Golden Sesame Seeds (toasted)
2 teaspoons Mitoku Ryujin Umeboshi Paste
2 tablespoons Mitoku Virgin Sesame Oil
1 tablespoon Mitoku Yuzu Vinegar
Juice of 1 - 1 1/2 oranges (to taste)
1 teaspoon minced green onion or chives (optional)
Toast sesame seeds (if using) in a dry skillet over medium heat for 1 - 2 minutes, stirring constantly. When seeds are fragrant and begin to pop, remove from pan to prevent them from overcooking and becoming bitter. Blend first 5 ingredients in a blender until smooth. Mix in scallions or chives (if desired), and chill for 30 minutes before using.
Makes 1 cup
Umeboshi tea, taken warm, helps combat fatigue, improve circulation, and aid digestion.
1 cup Mitoku Kukicha Twig Tea
1/2 large or 1 small Mitoku Ryujin Umeboshi Plum, pitted and shredded
A few drops Mitoku Johsen Shoyu (to taste)
A few drops fresh ginger juice
Bring kukicha tea to a boil. Remove from heat, add umeboshi, shoyu, and ginger juice. Let steep 1 - 2 minutes before drinking.