⟨ Food ⟩

Go with the flow

It’s raining plum

Words & photography / Jo

水果小姐早上傳了訊息來,說青梅季節來了,下星期會有南高梅,要釀酒嗎?挑些漂亮的留給你?好啊,我下星期來取吧。酒櫃裡其實還有三數枝日本梅酒未及開封,不是旅行途上買的,便是朋友來訪時客氣帶來的酒。沒釀酒的能耐,但聽到有當造的新鮮青梅,一期一會,總想做點甚麼。過幾天,水果小姐說青梅到了。

她打開厚重的雪櫃門,若無其事的走進雪房裡,在架子上拿了一袋青梅給我,一顆顆比高爾夫球小一點的青色梅子。「很新鮮,今早來到香港呢,釀酒是最好不過了!」她說。我不釀酒了,可能用來造醬吧。她說青梅很酸,怎能做吃的呢。我說我想念公公做的梅子炆鴨、梅子蒸排骨,因此想造梅子醬。她遞了另一袋給我,是青中帶黃的梅子,說是會甜一些。說畢便走到雪房裡的小廚房,給我倒了點她去年釀的梅酒,還有釀酒的青梅,說可以用來做菜。

等着等着,我看到房裡一端放着箱箱的水蜜桃,她知我很喜歡吃日本桃,便說:「這時候的水蜜桃都是溫室種的,不夠好吃。再等一個月吧,等山梨縣大糖嶺的成熟了,那些水蜜桃才夠甜。」說好哦,要給我留一箱。然後,她在箱子裡抓多把青挴給我。

我拿着購物袋,裡面裝了一盒釀過酒的青梅、一袋帶黃的梅子和零零落落的青梅。我把鼻子往袋裡聞了聞,好香。第一次聞到新鮮梅子的味道。抬頭天空還是下着雨。整個星期都下着雨,欲斷難斷。然後,活了這麼多年我才知道,原來這就是梅雨天。萬物有時,青梅、白桃、花朵,食物也應順着時節吃吧。

過了一星期我才有空造醬,天空也終於放晴,梅子顏色更見青黃斑駁,還添了道道紅霞,聞起來更香甜。洗淨了梅子,挑去頂部的梗,在梅子中央凹下去的溝線用水果刀劃下去,刀子按着不動,把砧板上的青梅轉一圈,切割軌跡頭尾相接。把青梅扭開一半成兩邊,是黃肉蜜桃的香氣。我想起Elio、意大利的夏天和Oliver說:「If you remember everything, I wanted to say, and if you are really like me, then before you leave tomorrow……just this once, turn to me, even in jest, or as an afterthought, which would have meant everything to me when we were together, and, as you did back then, look me in the face, hold my gaze, and call me by your name.」 原著比電影好看太多,字裡行間的情愫與留白、作者文字韻律急徐有致,即使沒有電影配樂,讀着讓人更感受到二人的纏綿情感,猶如翩翩華爾茲。剛剛開始讀下集,Elio與Oliver還未重逢。

拿出鍋子,才記起家裡一向沒有白砂糖。可黃糖味道深邃,與初夏青梅不相襯,找到櫃裡還有半瓶冰糖,煮醬應該不錯吧。敲碎大塊的冰糖,放到鍋子裡慢慢熬煮,瀰漫是杏子的香氣。其實,我不特別喜歡果醬,只是聽見有新鮮青梅、想起公公用梅子做的菜式、造醬比發酵直接,因此造了瓶青梅醬。青梅醬味道清甜偏酸,放入氣泡水做梅子梳打很適合,抹在剛烤好的牛油麵包上吃很開胃。我想,加點甜麵鼓或磨鼓醬便可以蒸排骨,我不太記得梅子炆鴨的味道,好像有點花椒八角的辛香料,要試試看才行。

都順着去,試試看吧,只要 go with the flow,好的壞的,一切都是最好的安排。

Ms Fruit texted me in the morning, saying that ume plum season has arrived and there will be Nanko ume arriving next week. Do you want to make umeshu? Let me pick you some beautiful ones and keep them for you? Sure. I’ll pick them up next week then. To be frank, there were a few bottles of umeshu in my cellar remaining untouched. They were either bought on the road while travelling or gifts from friends visiting our home. I never had the patience to ferment fruit wine, yet, fresh ume in season, once a year, was such a temptation that I would love to make food out of it. A few days later, Ms Fruit told me the ume had arrived. 

She slid open the heavy fridge door, walked in the ice-chilled room as if it was just another room and grabbed a bag of ume plums on the shelf for me. The green plums were of the size slightly smaller than a golf ball. “They are so fresh. Just arrived this morning, best for fermenting wine!” she said. Maybe not for umeshu but jam, I told her. She said ume plums are too sour for jam. But I missed the duck braised in plum sauce and steamed pork ribs in plum sauce grandpa used to make. She then passed me another bag of plums – green with patches of mellow yellow, saying that they were sweeter. Walking into the pantry in this freezer room, she poured me a shot of umeshu she fermented last year and the plums from the brew that could be used in cooking. 

I spotted cartons of peaches while waiting for her. She knew how much I adored Japanese peaches, and said, “These are grown in a greenhouse, not as nice. Wait for a month and when the peaches in Yamanashi Prefecture are ripe, those will be sweet enough.” Alright, keep a carton of momo for me. Then, she grabbed me some more of the green ume plums from the box. 

Holding the shopping bag with a box of ume plums from wine fermentation, a bag of yellow plums and scattered green ume plums. I stuck my nose into the bag and sniffed. So fragrant. My first time smelling fresh ume plums. I looked at the sky and it was still raining. It had been raining for the entire week, patches after patches. After all these years, I finally learnt that it’s the “plum rain” they called. All lives grow around the time, plums, peaches and flowers, so should our cooking. 

Not until another week I could spare the time to make the jam when the sky finally cleared up. Uncurling brushes of pink, the colours of ume plums turned from jade to sage, honey to Tuscan sun. They smelled even sweeter. I rinsed the plums, picked the stem, pressed the knife in the indented crease and turned the plum on the chopping board till both ends of the score met. Twisted open the plum into two halves, I smelled yellow peaches. It reminded me of Elio, Italian summer and that Oliver said, ”If you remember everything, I wanted to say, and if you are really like me, then before you leave tomorrow……just this once, turn to me, even in jest, or as an afterthought, which would have meant everything to me when we were together, and, as you did back then, look me in the face, hold my gaze, and call me by your name.” The novel was far nicer than the film. The heart-felt feeling and the blank to be filled between lines, rhythm of the writing and choice of lexicon, even without the soundtrack, one could be deeply touched by the waltzing tangled love between the two. I just started the sequel to the first book, and Elio and Oliver haven’t reunited, yet. 

I took a pot out, then I remembered that white sugar isn’t a staple at home. But brown sugar was too deep for plums harvested in early summer. I dug out half a jar of rock sugar. Should be good for making jam, I guess. I crushed the larger pieces of rock sugar and added them to the pot. Simmering over low heat, I smelled apricot. In fact, I didn’t really enjoy fruit jam. Just that when I heard there are fresh ume plums, it brought back fond remembrance of grandpa’s savoury plum dishes, the fact that making jam is more immediate than fermenting wine, so I made a jar of plum jam. It tasted fresh but surely on the sour side, perfect for adding to soda water or smearing over a slice of fresh-from-oven buttery toast. I imagine it could be the sauce for making steamed pork ribs by adding sweet miso or fermented soybean paste. The taste of the braised duck has faded a bit in my memory, but there should be Sichuan peppercorn or star anise or spice of that sort. I got to try.Go along and try. As long as we go along the flow, it is the best of plan, be it good or bad. 

青梅果醬

材料:
南高梅 500克
冰糖 250克 (這糖量做的果醬偏酸,可按口味加減)
¼ 杯

做法:

  1. 梅子洗淨去蒂,切半扭開去核,放進煲裡。
  2. 冰糖稍稍敲碎,放進煲裡後加水。
  3. 中火煮沸後,轉至小火,不時輕輕攪拌以免煮焦。
  4. 煮約45分鐘至濃稠即可。

 

Ume plum Jam 

Ingredients:
Nanko ume 500g
Rock sugar 250g (It yields jam on the sour side. Add more sugar to your liking.)
Water ¼ cup

Steps:

  1. Rinse the plums and remove the stem. Cut them into halves, twist open and remove the pit. Put the fruit into a pot. 
  2. Crush the rock sugar into smaller pieces and put them into the pot. 
  3. Bring it to boil over medium heat. Simmer over low heat after boiling. Keep gently stirring to avoid burn. 
  4. Cook for about 45 minutes till the consistency is thickened. 

Jo Liu

It’s raining outside, crisp and bleak. Three chubby sparrows took shelter on my balcony and I gave them the baguette bits left on my breakfast plate but they flew away. I stayed in, played Damien Rice on vinyl and made apple crumble. Repeat.

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