Monday, August 22, 2011

Infusion #5: Umeshu, Part I

A small project I’ve been meaning to tackle for years now is the ability to make one’s own plum wine at home… more specifically, umeshu. Technically, umeshu isn’t a wine at all (though it’s called so), but in fact a liqueur.

Umeshu might be the simplest infusion yet done on this site, though its simplicity in preparation demands patience for the infusing. Umeshu is created by soaking whole green plums in soju.

Green plums aren't just unripe plums (though they can be). Because this is an east Asian recipe, what can be assumed required is one of several varieties of Korean plum, most of which ripen to a light green color. Their taste is sweet, though perhaps not as sweet as some of the darker species that you can find. I myself don't have direct access to unripe Asian plums, but what I did find recently in my local store was less-than-ripe green pluots. I know that they're not nearly the same as for what traditional umeshu calls, but I'm going for it.

Soju is a Korean spirit that you'll find more and more nowadays, if you make an effort. It's a mid-proof mostly neutral spirit that is traditionally made from rice, though modern versions can be made from grain and sweet potatoes as well. Most soju also has just a bit of sugar added at the end of production, so the result is a slightly sweet liquor that is about 40 proof (on average) and very subtle in flavor. By the way, soju is not to be confused (which it commonly is), with shochu or baijiu, their Japanese and Chinese counterparts which tend to be more commonly made from rice only and are also higher proof.

The method of infusion couldn't be simpler: wash the fruits and soak them whole in soju for at least a few months. This method concerns me a bit. From my limited experience with infusing whole fruits in liquor, I find that the flesh of the fruits, shielded from the alcohol directly by their in-tact skin, tend to decompose a bit from the inside out. Similar experiments of mine have resulted in ammoniated aromas from the mixtures. But every description I've read of umeshu insists that it's smooth and inviting, so perhaps my fears are unfounded.

I'm making a small batch divided into two jars. Traditional recipes have you include sugar to soak in the liquor with the plums, but I'll just add simple syrup to the final infused product, as I often do.

If any of you know why this experiment will fail or what I'm doing wrong, feel free to tell me. See you in a few months!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Malibu Old Fashioned, If I Must...

Just a little while ago I wrote about the not-so-prolific ways in which you could get creative with making your own custom Old Fashioned cockails. I had been preaching this strategy long before I wrote about it, and one of my more wiley past suggestions has unfortunately reared its ugly head.

Dagreb, a fellow blogger, dug up an old suggestion of mine and foolishly decided to bring it to life. He claims that I suggested the idea of making an Old Fashioned out of Malibu rum. As I defended myself in the comments of his post about it, I told him that I either was very drunk (up to you to decide how likely) or that I suggested only adding bitters to the rum, since the sweet liqueur-like Malibu needed no additional sugar. Intoxicated (literally?) by the idea of coconut and pineapple combined, Dagreb whipped up a Malibu Old Fashioned anyway with pineapple syrup and aromatic bitters. The results were, not surprisingly, too sweet and undrinkable.

Allow me to provide a solution!

Malibu has recently released a new product: Malibu Black. This is far from the first "Black" titled version of a spirit to be released, but it's approach is a bit different. While Malibu is an unaged rum at low proof that's sweet like a liqueur, Malibu Black is almost a full proof, less sweet rum which uses aged rum as a base. Malibu black still has the candy-like coconut flavor (love it or hate it), but is a lot more sophisticated, and versatile, might I add. I essentially see no reason to ever buy normal Malibu again. Black's lesser sweetness makes it finally possible to mix it with cola without overly saccharine results, as Malibu suggests. If you haven't had coconut cola yet, you're really missing out.

I thought this the golden opportunity to make a Malibu Old Fashioned that didn't suck. I still treated Malibu Black like Malibu, in terms of its sweetness and heft, but the end result is that it's not undrinkable.

Malibu Black Old Fashioned

2oz Malibu Black
2-3 dashes lime bitters (substitute lemon or orange bitters)

Build on ice and garnish with a lime twist (substitute lemon or orange twist).