Eating seasonally can be rather ghastly when it becomes an obligation. Summer 2005 was a prime example. That year, runner beans happened to be “in season” and they took over our garden like the plague. “Eating seasonally”, therefore, became a euphemism for a 2 month long bean-siege. For 61 days, I witnessed Grinch-finger like green beans proliferate on their vines, only to reappear as green Jenga stacks on my dinner plate. Faster than I could vanquish them, the summer turned into an unending game of Tetris where the bricks were all green and morphologically incompatible. Over Summer ’05, it is a well known fact that enough beans were eaten in our household to stock the local Waitrose for a month.
Eventually, the beans were followed by the berries, and the berries were followed by…tooth soothing Sensodyne.
Here in the UK, we are currently emerging from the shivery cold of Winter. Whilst we are thankfully no longer faced with 24hrs of perpetual darkness, the chill is still in the air. One thing that does come mysteriously into its prime at such a time of year is the citrus family. Therefore, to indulge in my reminisces and in the spirit of season-food harmony, I wanted to pay tribute to a citrus flavoured Japanese liquor: Yuzushu.
What is Yuzushu?
Yuzushu is Limoncello’s Asian cousin. Made from the Yuzu fruit (see bottom for description), it is less cough syrup sweet, more refreshing. With its cloudy milk yellow hue, I think of Yuzushu as the liquid version of Pantone 3935 M Yellow.
Sweet is another descriptor that you would apply to Yuzushu, and liberally. Sweet, but with a level of tartness that just balances it out, to produce a mouth-watering effect.
Although not considered a traditional sake offering, the drive to create more “approachable” and “relevant” products means that today, you can find a decent selection of fruity sake liquers such as Yuzushu, Umeshu on the shelves. Yuzushu tends to be marketed as an accessible drink for those new to sake, as a cocktail mixer and as a digestif.
So far I have only crossed paths with Yuzu, by Ume no Yado (梅の宿). Ume no Yado is Japanese for The Lodging with Plum Blossoms, referring to the plum blossom tree that has flourished on the grounds for as long as the brewers can remember.
A recent pre-dinner drink at M Raw allowed me to revisit this drink, and served the second purpose of affording a peep inside this relatively new establishment. Tall, Dark and Handsome the interior proved to be, with service as moody as the lighting.
The Yuzu arrived in tall thin wine glasses, chilled. At a harmless 8%, you’d be alright enjoying a decent glass or two.
What’s special about Yuzu by Ume no Yado? If you study a bottle closely, you may notice a layer of liquid floating in the neck of the bottle. This is the yuzu oil, which has separated from the body of the liquid and evidences just how much yuzu fruit gets squeezed into one of these elegant frosted bottles.
To put it into numbers: whilst the peer group average of yuzu juice volume per bottle is 5 – 15%, in one bottle of Yuzu you will find up to 35% yuzu juice. Practically substitutable for that glass of orange juice you drink in the mornings.
So in light of the cold weather, in light of the lack of sun, raise a brave toast and shake off the last of the Winter chill with a glass of sweet, tart yuzushu.
What is Yuzu?
Not quite a lemon, nor quite an orange.
It can be best described as an orange-yellow grapefruit, whose rind is prized in East Asian cuisine for its aromatic flavour. In Chinese, we call it ‘fragrant orange’, 香橙 (although it isn’t actually an orange….), or “Pomelo”, 柚子 (…although it isn’t actually a pomelo).
Aside from Yuzushu, you will also find the fruit peel used in Yuzu vinegar, Ponzu sauce and Yuzu tea.
Confusingly, Ume no Yado have branded their yuzushu as Yuzu. Yuzu isn’t actually used interchangeably with yuzushu, it is just the name for the fruit.
Tempted to taste?
Not an exhaustive list, but to my knowledge –