Sunday, March 27, 2011

salt-preserved cherry blossoms

I love using salt-preserved cherry leaves and blossoms in my spring desserts. Check out my sakura mochi recipe to see the most common way the leaves are used. My sakura cheesecake recipe uses both leaves and blossoms. If you do not live where these can be purchased, you might try making them yourself, though it is a lot of trouble. Today I am posting directions for salt-preserving the blossoms. I will post directions for preserving the leaves in my next post.

Please keep in mind these two things: (1) Most of the sakura fragrance and flavor is in the leaves, so use the leaves for cooking, and the blossoms mainly for decoration or to add very slight fragrance to green tea. (2) Try to use the deep pink blossoms of the Yae-zakura tree. These tend to bloom later than other varieties of sakura, and have large, multi-layered petals.
Choose a tree that is far from the exhaust fumes of motorized traffic.

Ingredients:
yae-zakura blossoms..........200 grams
salt (first stage)..........50 grams
ume-zu (plum vinegar, either white or pink will do)..........4 Tablespoons
salt (second stage)..........50 grams

Directions:
1. Remove the blossoms from the branch at the point they are connected to it, stem and all. Rinse them gently, but thoroughly, in cold water. Drain the water, and pat the flowers dry using paper towels.

2. Toss the first 50 grams of salt with the blossoms and place the salted flowers in a small bowl. Place a weight (400 grams) over the flowers, cover all with plastic wrap, and set aside overnight. This will draw out the excess water from the flowers.

3. Next day, gently squeeze out the water from the flowers, then sprinkle them with the plum vinegar. Place a weight (this time only 100 grams) over the flowers, cover all with plastic wrap, and let sit for three days.

4. Spread the flowers (still with their stems) over a paper towel-lined, woven bamboo tray so that no flower overlaps with another. Place the tray in a dry, shady place for three days.

5. Toss the dried flowers with the second 50 grams of salt, and store them in a small, clean, screw top jar to keep at room temperature for future use. Or you can keep the plum vinegar-steeped flowers from step #3 in the refrigerator and eat them like pickles.

More detail and photographs of the procedure can be found at this Japanese site.


6 comments:

  1. Oh yum! I wish we had a tree here. Never mind that it is autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. We get to have Hanami in October though:)

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  2. Are these this year's sakura?!

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  3. @Sasa, no certainly not. Yae-zakura bloom later than all the other sakura. Ours don't even bloom till mid-May. This photo was borrowed off the site mentioned at the bottom of the post.

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  4. I found your blog because of this post about preserving cherry blossoms, so I'm looking forward to reading some other posts. If you ever get around to the cherry leaves technique, that would be great too.

    I'm not finished with this preparation yet, but what I can tell you already is that two hundred grams of cherry blossoms is a lot. It took me two trips up the ladder to gather the requisite weight (luckily I've got some construction going on; I might not have set up the ladder if I had to do it myself!).

    Even after washing and drying, the blossoms took up more volume that would fit into a small bowl. I expect that they will get smaller through the process.

    I will return to let you know how it goes.

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  5. @Anonymous,
    I am very interested to hear how it goes. What part of the world do you live and what kind of blossoms are you using? I'm still waiting for our yae-zakura to bloom, and had planned on posting the leaves recipe after that. But maybe I should go ahead, since sakura in most of the rest of the world are past their peak, or at their peak now. I'll try to post that soon!

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  6. Found this after attending a wagashi lecture this morning in Portland OR. I have made ichigo daifuku and other wagashi but would like to try Sakura Mochi so need a preserved leave recipe. Your blog looks very interesting. Am looking forward to perusing more of it

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