A highlight of the Japanese fruit season is the revered Ume plum harvest. The Japanese plum is seen in many forms, from wine (umeshu) to pickled (umeboshi) to vinegar (umesu). The harvest of these special fruits, which is typically in June, requires precise timing. The plums go from not quite ripe to perfectly ripe one day, to falling on the ground the next. It takes a trained eye to make the right decision when to pick these little gems. Probably the most common form of this fruit is the umeboshi or sour plums. When the plums are harvested, they are washed and soaked overnight. They are then transferred to a wooden tank and salted evenly with sea salt, covered with a breathable paper and left alone to cure. After a few weeks a brine begins to form and this brine continues to gain mass as more time goes on. The amount of time the ume age in the brine is of personal preference, but it is widely accepted that they improve with age. This brine, when finished and strained is umesu or plum vinegar. During the aging process, the Red Shiso leaves are ready for harvest and they are added to the aging plums and brine. The Red Shiso add an incredible color to the brine as well as contribute a wonderful herbaceousness. When the ume are ready, they are strained from the brine and brine is bottled for vinegar.
Togo-Su Ume Shiso Vinegar is a result of a one and half year aged brine and possesses a nice firm fruity taste with the natural sweetness of the process. The marriage of perfectly ripe fruit and the timing of the addition of the Red Shiso leaves, along with age is what creates this wonderful, unique vinegar. Umesu is a sweet vinegar and it best when used in moderation to lift flavors and excite palates.