Thursday, May 20, 2010

Many Purposes of the Plum Blossom


Ume juice is extracted by preserving the fruits in sugar. In China, sour plum juice (Chinese: 酸梅汤; pinyin: suānméitāng) is made from smoked ume (Chinese: 乌梅; pinyin: wūméi; literally "dark plum"). It ranges from light pinkish orange to purplish black in color and often has a smoky and slightly salty taste. It is traditionally flavoured with sweet osmanthus flowers, and is enjoyed chilled, usually in summer. The juice produced in Japan and Korea, made from green ume, tastes sweet and tangy, and is considered a refreshing drink, also often enjoyed in the summer. In Korea, maesil juice, which is marketed as a healthful tonic, is enjoying increasing popularity. It is commercially available in glass jars in sweetened, concentrated syrup form; it is reconstituted by stirring a small amount of syrup into a glass of water. The syrup may also be prepared at home by storing one part fresh maesil in a container with one part sugar (but no water).


Ume liquor, also known as "plum wine", is popular in both Japan and Korea, and is also produced in China. Umeshu (梅酒, sometimes translated as "plum wine") is a Japanese alcoholic drink made by steeping green ume in shōchū (焼酎, clear liquor). It is sweet and smooth. The taste and aroma of umeshu can appeal to even those people who normally dislike alcohol. A similar liquor in Korea, called maesil ju (매실주), is marketed under various brand names including Mae Hwa Su, Mae Chui Soon, and Seol Joong Mae. Both the Japanese and Korean varieties of ume liquor are available with whole ume fruits contained in the bottle. In China, ume wine is called mei jiu (梅酒).
In Taiwan, a popular post-World War II innovation on Japanese-style umeshu is the wumeijiu, or Wumei liquor (烏梅酒), which is made by mixing Prunus mume liquor (梅酒 méijǐu), Prunus salicina liquor (李酒 lǐjǐu), and Oolong tea liquor.

Pickled and Preserved Ume

Umeboshi (梅干), or pickled dried ume, are a Japanese specialty. Flavoured with salt, they are quite salty and sour, and therefore eaten sparingly. They are often red in color when purple shiso (perilla) leaves are used. Ume used for making Umeboshi are harvested in late May or early June, while they are still green, and layered with salt. They are weighed down with a heavy stone (or some more modern implement) until late August. They are then dried in the sun on bamboo mats for several days (they are returned to the salt at night). The flavonoid pigment in shiso leaves gives them their distinctive color and a richer flavor. Umeboshi are generally eaten with rice as part of a bento, although they may also be used in makizushi. Umeboshi are also used as a popular filling for Onigiri, a rice ball wrapped in nori. Makizushi made with ume may be made with either umeboshi or umeboshi paste, often in conjunction with green shiso leaves. A by-product of umeboshi production is umeboshi "vinegar", a salty, sour condiment.
In Chinese cuisine, ume that are pickled with vinegar and salt are called suān méizi (酸梅子; literally "sour mei fruits"), and have a similar intensely sour and salty flavor as umeboshi.
Huamei (Chinese: 話梅; pinyin: huàméi; literally "talk plum"), or Chinese preserved plum, refers to any of a large number of Chinese foods involving plums pickled in sugar, salt, and herbs such as licorice. There are two general varieties: a dried variety, and a wet (pickled) variety.
A very similar variety of pickled ume used in Vietnam is called xí muội or ô mai. The best fruit for this are from the forest around the Hương pagoda in Ha Tay Province.

Medicinal use

In traditional Chinese medicine, the smoked fruits, called wumei (烏梅), are used for medicinal purposes. They are generally black in color and are claimed by some to be effective against parasites, as well as in stopping ulcers and promoting a strong digestive system and heart.

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