Umeboshi (anzuboshi) / pickled plums (pickled apricots)

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Umeboshi (anzuboshi) / pickled plums (pickled apricots)

Salty and sour umeboshi pickled plums are the standard pickles that often sit in the center of plain steamed rice in bento or in the middle of onigiri rice balls. It is, or once was, one of the staples that each family made itself, especially in the countryside. For us, it was one of many things my grandmother made. My mom eventually started to make her own, and at some point she also started to use ripe apricots (but we continued to call them umeboshi). By the time I was graduating high school, our umeboshi were all apricots. Many years later, I learned that the apricot idea came from our piano teacher, who had a lovely garden filled with all sorts of ornamental and edible plants.

Anzuboshi pickled apricots are fruitier than umeboshi, but they basically taste the same, and people wouldn't notice the difference unless you tell them.

The amount of salt used as the first step varies from 10% and 20% of fruit weight, which assures years of storage at room temperature or cooler. Using less salt is possible when refrigerated during pickling and storage. Salt content of the recipe below is 8% of apricot/plum weight, an easy starting point for a reduced-sodium version. Alcohol (vodka) and rice vinegar are added as extra protection against mold.

1 anzuboshi (16 g with seed, 12 g without seed):
189 mg sodium/12 g flesh


12 ripe apricots (387 g in photo)
31 g sea salt (8% of apricot weight)
1 tbsp vodka
1 tbsp rice vinegar

Approx. 30-40 akajiso purple perilla leaves (10-20% of apricots by weight; not in photo)


Gently rinse apricots, remove stems, and dry on zaru tray for several hours.


Place apricots in a durable plastic bag, and add salt, vodka and rice vinegar.

Remove as much air as possible, arrange in a container so that apricots are in single layer.
Put one-size smaller tray or cover, and place weight (rock, or bag of water; approximately the same weight as apricots).
Keep in fridge.  
Flip apricots every few days for even marinating.

After several days, apricots start to release some moisture (do not discard).


When akajiso purple perilla leaves become available in summer, rinse leaves, and dry (in shade or sun).
As long as surface is dry, akajiso is ready to use.

Take some (1-2 tsp) brine from apricot bag, pour it over akajiso, and gently rub (photo below shows broken pieces of akajiso, as leaves were dried too much).

Discard liquid, and repeat once or twice, discarding liquid each time (liquid tends to have harsh taste of akajiso).
Put akajiso between apricots.
Place bag in the fridge for 3-5 weeks or longer.


When several days of nice weather are expected, dry apricots outdoors for 3 nights. (Save brine for later! Akajiso can be dried at the same time to make furikake powder.)
(In photo, larger fruit in front are apricots, and smaller, bluish red fruit at upper right are plums.)
Gently flip apricots a few times every day.
Leave outdoors overnight, unless raining.
Moisture accumulates on fruit surface by following morning, which is supposed to help soften skin.

(Photo: Afternoon on Day 3) 
(Photo: Morning on Day 4)


Place dried apricots in sterilized jar.
Put akajiso and brine (optional).
Keep refrigerated.
Best after 3-4 months.

  • The process is the same for ume plums.
  • When using ume, start picking as they ripen (after skin turns yellow). Otherwise, the skin of final umeboshi will turn out tough, even when dried overnight and covered with morning dew for a few days.
  • If apricots/plums happen to get slightly crushed while pickling and using a weight, they can be fixed by hand when drying at the final stage.
  • When more akajiso is added, the color becomes brighter.
  • If akajiso is not available, umezu or akajiso vinegar can substitute for a similar taste and aroma. Replace some brine with umezu/akajiso vinegar. Both, especially umezu, would add more sodium to the pickle.
  • Some people skip adding akajiso, and dry pickled ume plums as is.
  • High-sodium content umeboshi can be desalinated by soaking in lightly salted water. According to Nagomi, a farm store in Wakayama, sodium content of umeboshi made with 20% salt falls to 12-15% in 12 hours, and 7-10% in 24 hours (changing with new lightly salted water after 12 hours).
  • Umeboshi (plum) rests on top of shinmai new-crop rice in fall at right.
  • In my measurement, salt-converted sodium content of one anzuboshi's flesh is 3.8% (with high precision checker) and 4.% with the other checker. The 4% reading translates into 0.48 g salt (12 [g] x 4 [%] / 100), therefore, each anzuboshi's flesh contains 189 mg sodium (0.48 [g] x 1000 / 2.54).

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