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Cooking with Umeboshi,
Ume Paste, and Plum Vinegar

by Jan & John Belleme

Umeboshi PlumesJan & John are good friends of mine and amazing cooks! They have written several books on Japanese foods, written articles for national  magazines and help present the Holistic Holiday at Sea.

Umeboshi and umeboshi paste are lively and versatile seasonings that add a pleasant tartness to salad dressings, cooked vegetables, and sauces. Umeboshi is also commonly served in Japan as a condiment with rice, or tucked inside a rice ball wrapped with nori. In the summer, thick cucumber rounds spread thinly with umeboshi paste are a cooling treat. Sparingly spread on cooked sweet corn, it is a delicious, healthful alternative to butter and salt. Umeboshi also goes well with members of the cabbage family, including broccoli, kale, and cauliflower.

When using whole pickled plums, it is usually necessary to remove the pit and mince the flesh before adding it to recipes. Umeboshi paste, another product offered under the Mitoku brand, can be substituted for umeboshi in virtually any recipe.

The shiso leaves that are often packaged with umeboshi are also delicious when chopped and used as a seasoning inside nori rolls or when tossed in with steamed or sautéed vegetables.

Plum vinegar, also known as Umeboshi vinegar or ume-su, contains many of the healing qualities and nutrients associated with pickled plums, and it is easy and convenient to use. Both pleasantly tart and salty, umeboshi vinegar is a versatile seasoning that is especially refreshing on hot afternoons. Use umeboshi vinegar to liven up salad dressings, homemade quick pickles, and tofu spreads. It adds a pleasantly pungent flavor to cooked leafy greens (especially cabbage), cauliflower, broccoli, and green beans. Steam, boil, or sauté vegetables until tender but still colorful. Drain if necessary, place in a serving bowl, and toss with umeboshi vinegar to taste. When substituting umeboshi vinegar for other types of vinegar, substantially reduce the amount used, or eliminate the salt in the recipe. The following recipes will help you become familiar with umeboshi and umeboshi vinegar and will soon have you discovering new ways to use these delicious and healthful seasonings.

Learn more about the wonders of umeboshi in Jan
and John Belleme’s Japanese Foods That Heal ~ Using Traditional ingredients To Promote Health,
Longevity, & Well-being

Sweet 'n Sour Pickles

Simple Sweet ‘n Sour Pickles

Enjoy these simple Sweet ‘n Sour Pickles made from fresh organic garden veggies.

4 cups thinly sliced cucumber, carrot, red radish, daikon or turnip
1½ teaspoons sea salt
¼ cup ume su 
¼ cup rice vinegar or cider vinegar 
¼ cup mirin
¼ cup water

Combine vegetables and salt. If using daikon or turnips, let sit 5 hours or overnight. Leave carrots 24 hours or press overnight. Red radish requires 2-3 hours, and cucumbers only 1 hour.

Press vegetables gently with the back of your hand and drain off salt water. Mix with ume su, vinegar, mirin, and water in a saucepan and boil for 1 minute only. Allow to cool. Place vegetables in glass jar, pour liquid over them, cover, and put in a cool place or refrigerate. Pickles will be ready to eat in 24 hours (if refrigerated it may take 2 days), Once pickled, store in refrigerator.

Shopping for Umeboshi

Although there are several natural producers of pickled plums in Japan, few use the year-long traditional process. Fewer still use organically grown plums and high quality sea salt. In fact, the umeboshi found in many Asian food stores are made in just a few weeks using red dye, organic acids and commercial salt. Some of these are made in Japan but most are processed in Korea or China. To be sure that you are buying the finest-quality pickled plums, check ingredients on the label. The finest pickled plums are made with organic plums, organic shiso leaves and sea salt.

Organic Ryujin Whole Plums
from Organic Chef’s

Buy Organic Umeboshi at Natural Lifestyle Organic Market
Organic Orange Ume Dressing

Jan & John Belleme share their favorite ume recipes: 

Orange-Ume Dressing  
Makes 1 cup

This is a refreshing summer dressing for tossed salads and noodle salads.

3 level tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
   or 3 tablespoons tahini
2 teaspoons umeboshi paste or minced umeboshi
2 tablespoons light sesame or olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Juice of 1 - 1½ oranges (to taste)
1 teaspoon minced green onion or chives (optional)

Toast sesame seeds (if using) in a dry skillet over medium heat for 1 - 2 minutes, stirring constantly. When seeds are fragrant and begin to pop, remove from pan to prevent them from overcooking and becoming bitter. Blend first 5 ingredients in a blender until smooth. Mix in scallions or chives (if desired), and chill for 30 minutes before using.
 
 

Cole Slaw with Umeboshi Vinegar

Cole Slaw
Serves 4

This salad goes well with almost any natural foods entrée. Toasted sunflower seeds add concentrated nutrition and extra flavor.

1 small head cabbage
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 large carrot, finely grated (peel if not organic)
1/3 cup vegan or natural mayonnaise
2 teaspoons umeboshi vinegar
1&1/2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon rice syrup
1 cup sunflower seeds

Cut the cabbage half in half again lengthwise. Remove tough core and reserve for another use. Slice cabbage crosswise, as thinly as possible. Rinse cabbage and drain well (shake to remove excess water), then place in a large bowl. Add salt, toss well, and knead (squeeze handfuls to help soften fibers). Set aside at least 20 minutes, then squeeze out excess water. Add carrot to cabbage and toss until evenly mixed. Make dressing by combining mayonnaise, umeboshi vinegar, brown rice vinegar or lemon juice, and rice syrup. Add dressing to vegetables and toss well.

Toast sunflower seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a small bowl. If time permits, chill cole slaw slightly in the refrigerator. Top with a sprinkling of seeds. Serve remaining seeds on the side to be added to individual servings, as desired.
 

John and Jan Belleme

John & Jan Belleme

John and Jan Belleme are leading authorities on the healing powers of traditional foods. In 1979m after living in Japan for over a year, where the Bellemes learned the craft of traditional miso making firsthand, they co-founded The American Miso Company, one of the world’s largest producers of traditional miso. Since the 1980s the Bellemes have researched and written, and in many cases illustrated, over 130 published articles on the subject of cooking with Japanese foods, including four books: Culinary Treasures of Japan; Cooking with Japanese Foods, a guide to the traditional natural foods of Japan; The Miso Book and Japanese Foods That Heal. John and Jan travel throughout the eastern United States giving lectures about authentic Japanese foods, and every winter, with partners Sandy Pukel organize a week long health cruise that features prominent experts in macrobiotic cooking, healthy living, holistic medicine, yoga, meditation, shiatsu, Pilates, and natural beauty aids. They live in Saluda, North Carolina.

Photo of John & Jan by Michael Belleme

Japanese Foods That Heal by Jan & John BellemeJapanese Foods That Heal
Using Traditional Japanese Ingredients to Promote Health, Longevity, & Well-Being

A comprehensive and authoritative guide to the healing powers of Japanese foods, this book includes an in-depth look at over seventeen traditional ingredients, including miso, shiitake, toasted sesame oil, tofu, amazake, and seitan. Each food item is given its own chapter, which includes a detailed discussion of the nutritional and medicinal benefits, how to make it or buy it, cooking with it, and recipes featuring it. 224 pages. Price: $18.95
Buy here: Natural Lifestyle Organic Market >

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