24 October 2016
The Japanese plum (ume) blossom season is a good time for making the umeshu plum wine. Photos: HKEJ,
The Japanese plum (ume) blossom season is a good time for making the umeshu plum wine. Photos: HKEJ,

It’s the season for homemade Japanese plum wine

Gatherings among a circle of close friends, and the discussion topics during the meetings, change along with time.

Thirty years ago my friends’ circle would meet very often and hold animated talks on topics such as our first jobs and our romantic interests.

Ten years later, there was a decline in the number of gatherings as well as the attendees as people got busy with their lives, with parenthood or work issues taking up most of their time.

But in the last ten years, there has been an improvement in our social life as people again started looking forward to reunions, cementing our friendship with more frequent meals and drinks sessions.

During the gatherings, everyone happily shares their travel experiences or recalls old campus stories.

In the latest meeting this year, we decided to continue the discussion we had during our previous session on some supposedly short-lived hobbies: pickling and winemaking.

The talk proved to be very engaging, making me want to share some things with you.

It started off when someone suddenly inquired as to where he could buy white vinegar in bulk. Everyone was puzzled as the answer seemed obvious: a supermarket.

But then it dawned on us that his needs were different, as he informed us about the real reason for his proposed purchase: he wanted to pickle some young ginger and daikon radishes.

As he planned to pickle at least 10 catty each of young ginger and daikon radish, relying on a supermarket would have meant buying at least 40 standard bottles of Heinz white vinegar — not exactly an ideal or cost-effective solution.

Thus, we scoured various sources for information and helped him get supplies in bulk from a local distributor.

Meanwhile, we learnt that some people were also trying to make umeshu traditional liqueur at home, as it is now the Japanese plum, or ume, blossom season.

The fresh green fruit costs only around HK$10 per catty.

Some say immersing the plums in Chinese double-distilled rice wine gives a good flavor, while others argue that stronger triple-distilled liquor would be a better option.

“I would only consider top-grade sake from Japan,” a person proudly said. “And, the Nanko ume grown from Wakayama Prefecture.”

The sophisticated recipe has left us speechless in wonder. No doubt, some would call it a middle-class indulgence. 

I am now looking forward to the privilege of having a sip, or even helping myself to a full bottle, of the homemade plum wine from my friend.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 11.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


a veteran journalist and food critic

EJI Weekly Newsletter