Plum wine is delicious. In Japan, it’s called umeshu, and it takes sour, green plums and makes this delicious, sweet drink. I love it. It’s one of my favorite drinks.
I was super excited when I came across ferm_picks’ profile and saw them making plum wine! They were so kind and shared with me their plum wine syrup recipe. The secret to preventing all the sugar from getting moldy is to stir it every day and to add some vinegar. Because the mixture is so sweet and the vinegar so little, you do not taste it at all. It helps to create an acidic enough environment to keep the bad bacteria at bay.
I took this recipe and adapted with more common ingredients that you would find in a western grocery store. For instance, I use Moyer and Damsons plums, which you are commonly found in the grocery store. I also use brown sugar instead of black sugar to help draw out the plum juices sooner. I also cut my plums instead of leaving them whole, as they are larger than the Japanese ume plum.
After less than a week, you’ll likely start seeing bubbles appear. A great sign that fermentation is underway. After 3-4 weeks, you may smell alcohol, another great sign! After 6 weeks, the bubbling is likely to subside, and it is ready to bottle. However, depending on your environment, the fermentation process may take longer or maybe shorter.
The finished product is a plum syrup that will last months bottled. I like to add it to prosecco to make a great fruit wine spritzer. Ferm_picks recommended adding it to soda or sparkling water for a great low alcohol alternative to wine. If you start this project at the end of summer or the beginning of fall, it will make for a great Christmas gift!
By the way, the plums that you use to make the wine syrup. Keep them, don’t toss them. I dry the plum pieces by placing them on parchment paper and leaving them in an oven on low for 24-48 hours or until dry. They make a great, if not slightly boozy, snack that will also last months. This way you use all of your fruit from this fermentation.
- 1 kg of pitted plums
- 150g of brown sugar (or 15% of the plums)
- 650g of crystal or rock sugar (or 65% of the plums)
- 36g of red wine vinegar (or 2% of total weight)
- Remove the pits from the plums and cut the plum into quarters.
- Measure the weight of the pitted plums. Then measure out brown sugar in a bowl so that it is 15% of the weight of the pitted plums, and measure out crystal sugar so that it is 65% of the weight of pitted plums.
- In a large clean jar, create alternating layers of rock sugar, brown sugar, and plums. Make sure to place the plums flesh side down, skin side up.
- Then calculate the combined weight of the plums and sugar. Then add 2% of that weight in vinegar to the jar with the plums.
- Let sit in a dark place for 6-8 weeks or until the bubble subside. Shake every day to help prevent mold.
- When ready to bottle, strain the plums from the wine syrup. Place the wine syrup in bottles and it is ready for use. For the plums, you can place them on a lined baking tray and dehydrate them in the oven on low for 24-48 hours.
Tips for a successful ferment.
Rinse your fruit. Do not use a fruit cleaner or scrubber. You are using the yeast in the environment, which includes yeast on the fruit skin and on your hands. Keep the skin on and gently rinse the fruit so that you do not lose all the yeast.
Like many ferments, a key to this recipe is using weights and ratios. It is super handy to a digital kitchen scale and some pen and paper nearby for calculations. However, this recipe very forgiving. If your ratio of sugar to plums is off, that is fine. Even if your ratio of vinegar to plum and sugar, it will work out great. Still, I recommend that you have at least 2% of the plum and sugar weight in vinegar to help prevent mold, particularly at the beginning.
The sugar will pull the juices from the plums and will eventually dissolve in them. It makes a great place for yeast and sometimes molds. To prevent mold, use vinegar, and feel free to add 1-2% more if you would like to be extra careful. Also, give the plums a mix or two each day to prevent mold. If you see something white on the plums, it is probably yeast but feel free to remove that plum and cut that section off.
To have a more even ferment, use a mixture of ripe, juicy plums, and plums that are just underripe. This will dissolve that sugar at a slower pace and allow for a more even ferment.