23 Sep 2016 in Food Culture
Delve into the secrets of umeshu, the little-known Japanese liqueur prepared from ume fruit. And discover its refined taste and subtle sweetness… in moderation!
Ume is often called a plum, which is its Latin name. However, these two fruits have very different characteristics, and ume might best be described as a Japanese apricot.
While cherry blossoms get all the acclaim, ume blossoms are the first to announce the arrival of spring in Japan. The flowers emerge at the end of February and bring a majestic air to the garden. Atami Ume park is known to be one of the earliest bloom in Japan. Located in the Shizuoka prefecture to the south of Tokyo, it gather 450 Japanese apricot trees of about sixty different varieties, some of which are over a hundred years old. This garden was built at the end of the 19th century and is a must-see during your stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Atami.
Unlike Japanese cherry blossom trees, which do not produce fruit, ume trees produce excellent crops of green, slightly acidic fruit that are used to make a liqueur, called umeshu. Its production is pretty straightforward: once the fruits have been cleaned and ridden of their peduncle, they are placed for about an hour in a large volume of water to remove their bitterness. Then, after draining the water and drying the prunes, they are placed in a large jar alongside sugar stones. This mixture is covered with a sufficient volume of alcohol, usually shōchu, and left to macerate for six months to a year.
Towards the end of the afternoon, Hoshino Resorts KAI Atami offers a tasting on its terrace of 5 different ume fruit liqueurs, each with its own particularities. Some are made with saké, some with Shirakaga ume, or mixed with green tea extract from the Shizuoka region. You can taste each of the different varieties of liqueur and decide which you like best enjoying a timeless moment of sweetness with a breathtaking ocean view.