Things I Love
November 20, 2013
I've had a long love affair with the pickled "plums" (they're actually apricots) of Japan. I love to start the day with ume tea, and I try to end every sushi meal with a handroll of rice and yama imo sparked with sweetly salty umeboshi paste.
But on this trip to Japan I discovered the many varieties of ume pickles, which run an entire gamut of flavors and textures. The plums can be hard or soft, sweet or salty; the kind I ended up bringing home are lightly grilled, which brings out another aspect of their character.
In Japan good umeboshi can be very expensive; this little jar was $15, which means that the plums themselves were more than $2 each. Well worth it, I think. I've been eating them with nothing more than a warm bowl of rice – a perfect breakfast.
I'm about to start looking for a source of great umeboshi on this side of the Pacific; all suggestions will be gratefully received.
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Hi Ruth. I love your Japan posts so much. Makes me proud to be Japanese. Thank you, for fancying my culture and food!
This could be a good option: http://shop.mitsuwa.com/eng/egoods/edetail.php?pid=3663
What my parents did in the 80s and 90s, when access to Japanese foods and ingredients were very limited, was, befriend sushi chefs who purchased extra stock for our family. Perhaps that route would be a good option as you have such great relationships with so many great chefs in NY and Manhattan.
I was looking around your site for contact info as I wanted to reach out about my next book with Andrews McMeel (Preserving the Japanese Way)…and in the meantime got sucked into your thoughts and tastes that jumped into my psyche. I just finished a piece for the January issue of ANA’s inflight magazine on the Kumamotos in Japan and Seattle…but actually fell down the rabbit hole for the Olympia’s. Oh my god I dream about them.
As for umeboshi – you could ask Sylvan Brackett – he might be willing to part with some for you. Or why don’t you just make some? They are ridiculously easy and so much more personal when you can put your own taste into the mix. Deborah Madison’s brother Mike makes olive oil near Davis but also has a slew of ume trees on his property. An idea.
Or if you want, I could send you some of my umeboshi… I also recommend making persimmon vinegar – let me know if you want the method. Nothing more than persimmons in a pot. Truly. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
By the way Alice introduced us at the showing of Wayne Wang’s film on Celia Chang. I am the author of Japanese Farm Food.
A few nurseries sell prunus mume, the source of ume plums (as you said, they’re really apricots!) and may be able to point you to commercial growers who are making their own or selling to restaurants/craft makers who are pickling ’em:
https://www.onegreenworld.com/ in Portland
http://www.camforest.com/ in NorthCarolina
both are nice folks to work with. And if you do find a domestic source that’s good, you’ll post about it, natch?