Ume Plum Sauce with Pink Lady Apple and Cranberry is a tribute to my dear friend and long-time cooking buddy Ayako Iino. I’ve cooked side-by-side with Ayako at San Francisco Bay Area catering companies and restaurants such as Oliveto, Boulette’s Larder, and the Metropolitan Club. A master Japanese chef with pickled Napa cabbage, marinated squid, and plum blossoms in her veins, Ayako’s sensitivity and awareness of each ingredient’s potential allows her to consistently create not just new dishes but a whole line of Ume plum treats.
One of the best memories of my life so far was helping Ayako move her sundried Ume plums from drying racks into buckets of shiso infused syrup. On a valley-warm, late summer day when the dryness seeped into corn stalks and withering roadside chicories, I worked under Ayako’s direction. Amid fields of eggplant, tomato, and sunflower at Capay Valley’s Full Belly Farm, we worked with the heating sun, walking from the fruit drying rack area to the new barn. Full Belly is one of the most productive and authentic small organic farms in the world, and the network of farmers and the abundance of river water and its sediment make Capay Valley one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world. The care that Ayako took with each plum reminded me of how at Oliveto she would attentively pull each thread of fingerling potato skin so as not to injure the potato and rip off any of its flesh. In the small Capay, you are sided by large rolling hills, pine, oak, and the bounty of numerous small organic farms. The ripe tomato resin and broken dried hay smell filled the valley air as we moved under the late summer sun.
Ayako’s Ume plum business has since taken off, and in addition to winning Good Food awards in SF, she has tented out her business to sell not only online at https://yumeboshiplum.com but at Berkeley Bowl, The Local Butcher Shop, Bi-Rite, Farmshop, Dimes Deli, and the Oakville Grocery (and more places—see her website).
The dance of Ume plum, Pink Lady apple, cranberry, and sublime Shiso syrup creates a sweet, salty, acidic drama that will entangle a crispy duck or chicken breast in its flavor clutches. If you are sick of cranberry sauce and its variations, try something new this Thanksgiving with this quick and easy sauce. Including prep time, this play on the traditional Thanksgiving sauce will take under 15 minutes to make. Ume Plum Sauce can be paired with turkey, duck, chicken, or pork as well as roasted cauliflower, or you could enjoy it mixed into an arugula salad with roasted almonds (and blue cheese if you can take it) for some vegetarian love.
4 Ume Plums, torn into small pieces
1 Pink Lady apple, small diced
¼ cup cranberries
¼ teaspoon jalapeno, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon red shiso syrup
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
1. Place the olive oil in a small sauté pan and turn the heat on medium-high.
2. Add in the torn Ume, cranberry, diced apple, mustard seed, and salt and cook the mixture for about four minutes.
3. Add in the chopped jalapeno and cook for another minute or two.
4. Turn the heat off and add in the red shiso syrup.
5. Check the sauce for balance and seasoning, and serve with roasted duck, turkey, chicken, or pork.