Umeboshi Cheesecake

28Sep09

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I am absolutely nuts about cheesecake. I invent a new cheesecake recipe at the rate of about once each season of the year. One of my family’s favorites is the Persimmon Cheesecake that I make every fall. Earlier this spring I invented a cherry blossom-scented Sakura Cheesecake. Recently my eye wandered to my stock of dark pink umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums). Part of me said NO WAY. And the other part of me said IS THAT A DARE? But before you can understand what a weird idea Umeboshi Cheesecake is, you have to know what umeboshi is, and something about its traditional role in Japanese cuisine.

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Umeboshi, (literally “dried ume“) are pickled ume fruits, and though ume is traditionally translated “plum,” it is actually more closely related to the apricot. Umeboshi is a kind of tsukemono (pickled food), and saying it is popular in Japan doesn’t come close to explaining its significance to the Japanese mind and stomach. People swear by its health benefits, and many a Japanese would never consider traveling overseas without a secret stash of umeboshi to last out his/her travels.

Umeboshi are very salty, and extreeeemely sour due to high citric acid content. It isn’t a taste that is easy to appreciate. I myself didn’t like umeboshi as a child growing up in Japan. But my husband liked it from the first day he stepped off the plane, and it was under his influence that I learned to like it too. It helps that there’s a lot more variety available nowadays. You can get low-salt umeboshi, and even umeboshi that has been marinated in honey to temper the acidity. Some are small and hard, some are large and gooey. Umeboshi is a standard filling for rice balls, and is a popular condiment for some kinds of fish. I’ve blogged several fish recipes using umeboshi, such as this one for pan-fried pacific saury.

While sweetened green plums are used to flavor some traditional Japanese sweets, salty/sour red-dyed umeboshi is not a common ingredient in desserts. As shown below, a few candy companies have come out with items like umeboshi-flavored gum, umeboshi-flavored hard candy, and what appears to be an umeboshi-flavored chewy candy (which I’ve never tried). I even found a photo of a cheese-tart type dessert with a whole umeboshi on top that is meant to accompany the drinking of sake. But I was not surprised to see my Japanese neighbor’s jaw drop when I invited her to share tea and a slice of homemade Umeboshi Cheesecake with me. Incidentally, she loved it. The best thing about it, is that it’s so easy to make.
Ingredients:

Cream cheese, softened, 250 grams (8 oz)
Fresh eggs, 3 large
Flour, 3 Tablespoons
Sugar, 100 grams (2/3 cup)
Heavy cream or evaporated milk, 200 cc (3/4 cup)
Umeboshi, 6 large & soft & low-salt, pits discarded
1 pie crust
whipped cream (optional)

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Toss all ingredients into an electric blender, and blend at high for about two minutes. Pour batter into a pie crust (I used a chocolate cookie-crumb shell this time, but blind-bake for fifteen minutes if using pastry crust). Bake cheesecake in 170 C (325 F) oven for 50 minutes. I usually place the rack over a second pan containing 1/2 inch or so of hot water to provide some steam.

After the cheesecake has baked, let it cool down completely before placing it in the refrigerator to chill further. Just before serving, cover the top with whipped cream and garnish each wedge with a mint leaf, or a pinch of freeze-dried yuzu peel, or (as I did) a pinch of dried red shiso (perilla) leaf. Red Shiso is used in the pickling process and is what makes umeboshi red, so I think it is particularly suitable as a garnish for the cheesecake. If you want to emphasize the pink of the umeboshi, add just a pinch of red food coloring to the batter.

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2 Responses to “Umeboshi Cheesecake”

  1. A umeboshi Cheescake?? Great!
    I just discovered your blog, and every recipe is so interesting and different!
    I will visit your blog again, for sure!

  2. Please do visit again! I love Cheesecake, and I try to make a new one every year.


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