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Ume boshi

I've made ume boshi and it's a rather involved process. The hardest
part is to find a supply of ume, a Japanese fruit which is really
closer to an apricot than a plum. A friend of mine has an ume tree,
so I get them from her. The recipe book says you can use green-yellowish
plums or green-yellowish firm apricots.

Soak 3 lbs ume in water overnight. The next day pat the ume completely
dry with paper towels and place them in the tsukedaru (pickling
vat). Mix in 1 1/2 cups salt and toss. (See Note.) Cover with a
drop lid and add a weight equal to the weight of the plums. Let
sit for one week. After a week, pour off the resulting pickle juice
called hakubaizu (white plum vinegar), and save for use in other
recipes. Refrigerate the umezuke (the product of this step) until
ready to continue with the next step.

Place 60 red shiso leaves (Perilla frutescens) in the tsukedaru
and add 1 tsp. salt. Knead by hand until the juices are released.
Discard the juice. Add 3 or 4 Tbsp. hakubaizu left over from making
the umezuke and mix well.

Add the umezuke to the shiso mixture and continue to fill the
tsukedaru with hakubaizu until all ingredients are submerged. Cover
with a drop lid and place a weight on top of the lid which is the
same weight as all ingredients, and let sit in a cool place for
about one month.

On a very dry, hot day remove the ume and spread outside on a flat
basket for 2 to 3 days until the plums turn light brown and show
salt evaporation lines. Do not allow them to dry completely and
harden. These plums will keep for a few years if stored in a cool
place.

Note: I found the end result a little too salty. Another cookbook
recommends using 10 - 15% of the weight of the fruit in salt and
increasing the amount of shiso to 3/4 lbs.

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