I was struck dumb by this specialty of Kyoto when I saw it in Saveur magazine: not a recipe, but jars imported for a huge price. Wait a minute! We have cherry trees in abundance in Portland! I started gathering them right away. This year I know where all the best cherry trees are and began picking early in the season. The result is beautiful and the flavor exquisite. Use them in desserts, salads and salad dressings, to flavor tea. Rinse gently in water or soak in water before you use them to remove the salt. Don't soak them long or you will lose some flavor. Pick the flowers that are only half or three quarters open to capture the finest fragrance.
Yield 1 cup Units US
3 cups cherry blossoms (1/2 to 2/3 open blossoms)
3 tbs salt
1/3 cup ume vinegar or 70 ml liquid, from the cherry blossom juice below
1. Cut half open to ¾ open blossoms from the trees making sure to keep some of the green stem on each one.
2. Using several changes of water soak briefly and wash the blossoms. Dry the blossoms completely. Lettuce spinner is a great tool for this, but I also lay them on a clean cloth for a while to soak up extra water.
3. Add 1/3 cup salt to the blossoms, salt the container and the layers of blossoms. Gently massage. Liquid will start to be released from the lightly squeezed blossoms.
4. Press the blossoms and their liquid into a jar or fermenting crock. Pour in the ume vinegar. Press the blossoms below the liquid with a lid and smaller glass. I often use a bit of plastic wrap here to keep the air out. Cover the container tightly and allow to ferment.
5. After 1 week remove the blossoms from the liquid and spread the blossoms on a bamboo or plastic screen to dry outside in the shade (best scenario) or if its rainy I just leave them in my dehydrator turned off with the door open. Do not over squeeze the blossoms to maintain the best the aroma and flavor. I am saving the liquid this year to have cherry flavored ume plum vinegar. The final result should be some something like a raisin not over dried.
6. Mix the blossoms gently with extra salt until they are well covered and bottle. Keep in refrigerator. My first batch have kept over a year and are still fragrant and delicious!