Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sen no Rikyu

From around the end of May until the middle of June each year a fruit is harvested which Koreans call '매실' (maeshil) - which translates as Japanese apricot or plum. The fruits can then be placed into a jar with brown sugar or honey and left to ferment for one-hundred days. Once the fruit float they can be taken out and placed in alcohol to add flavour to that, or used to make side dishes. Meanwhile, the liquid concentrate left over '매실즙' (maeshiljeub) is used to make '매실차' (maeshilcha) - '차' meaning tea - which is drunk hot or cold, depending partly on preference, but mostly on the weather.

Last summer Korean mother prepared her annual batch of '
maeshiljeub' and it made an appearance shortly after I arrived, although at the time I wasn't really sure what it was and it just got filed away in my mind with a lot of other things under the category of 'strange Korean food and drink'. Since then, I've learned to appreciate it more when the occasional bottle came our way - aside from it's sweet taste people believe it has a range of health benefits, including being good for digestion, liver function, the skin, fatigue, killing germs among a list of others too numerous to mention. Suffice to say it's a surprise it's not claimed to cure SARS and bird-flu (unlike kimchi!) Personally, I can't say I've noticed any health benefits but I don't really care - I just love the taste.

Sadly though, we're about to run out of our last bottle and our dealer, Korean Mother, has no more. So it looks like I'm going to be suffering withdrawal symptoms for the next six months until the next batch can be made, and while rumour has it that it may be possible to buy it from some stores, we've never seen it and it seems that most people go down the home-made route here.

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