Umeboshi & umezu 2013: As we get ready to dry this year's newly-pickled umeboshi, it's time to pull out last year's batch. The fruit and the liquor (the umezu; the juice from the pickled ume) have been aging – "left to rest" as they say in Japanese – in separate containers. Here they are, side by side.
Firm soft fruit. Beautiful bright red liquor. Saltiness still sharp and intense. Brash acidity. Deep mouth-puckering sourness.
The perfect pick-me-up to help mitigate the malaises of the muggy midsummer.
Umeboshi & umezu 1996 (below): Stashed away and left to mature – OK, yes, we forgot about them until we cleared out our pantry – for 18 years. The inner juices exuded as a crystal jelly, still surprisingly tart.
Deep umami and hints of almond. The saltiness well mellowed. The colour faded to that of a well aged sherry. Can I call these the oloroso of umeboshi?
PS: Just for comparison's sake, here (below) are some from an in-between vintage (2008):
The umeboshi have turned a mature brown. And they have developed an amazing amount of "jelly", most of which is still at the bottom of the jar.
Meanwhile the umezu, which was bottled separately, still retains a lovely bright clarity, which is reflected in the brisk flavor. This could be the perfect balance between young and old.
Our ume tree is getting old now and giving us fewer fruit. But its youthful vigour lives on, here in our pantry with this pickled legacy.