Umeboshi is pickled plums seasoned with salt and dried. It literally means dried plums. It is usually eaten with rice for break first or lunch. The taste is sour, and when Japanese people see umeboshi, they imagine the sourness and their mouth get watery. Red shiso herb is often used to give umeboshi a red colour.
The history of umeboshi goes all the way back to ancient China, and then spread to Japan. In the feudal period, umeboshi was not only a preservable food, but it played an important roll to disinfect wounds, and to prevent food poisoning, because it has a sterilising effect.
Umeboshi can be used for wide range of cuisines. Hinomaru-bento putting umeboshi in the middle of rice in the lunch box is a standard, which indicates the Japanese hinomaru flag. Cooking umeboshi with sardine makes the sardine soft and tasty. Putting umeboshi in between chicken and cooking it will give a sour but light and delicious taste.
There are different kinds of umeboshi. Katsuo-ume use dried bonito to give a fishery flavor, and hachimitsu-ume use honey to give a sweet flavor. Wakayama prefecture is the most famous place where plums are picked, and the brand nankobai is the highest grade umeboshi.
To make umeboshi, ripe plums picked mostly in June are used. The plums will be put in a bowl, soaked in water for a night, and will be gently rubbed into salt. Prepare a sterilised jar, and put salt and plums until the jar is filled up. Put a weight on top and leave it for about a week in a cool place. After a week, put the plums on a bamboo basket, and dry them under the sun. These are the important steps to make delicious umeboshi.