How to Make Yuzushu (Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur) ゆず酒
Yuzu is one of Japan’s great tastes. Yuzu is lemony but more delicate and mild, even the peel can be eaten! Try that with a lemon. Yuzu is used to flavor many things from sashimi and grilled fish to mochi and wagashi. Yuzushu, yuzu liqueur is fairly uncommon in Japan so we tried making our own at home this year.
We continue with our winter season Japanese fruit liqueur series and tell you about making yuzushu, or yuzu liqueur. The yuzu fruit is not normally eaten like other Japanese citrus, the mikan tangerine for example. Instead the juice and peel is used for an exquisite and subtle flavoring.
Yuzushu is very easy to make and preparation just takes 30 minutes or so. It should be aged about 1 year before drinking.
Yuzu is in season throughout the winter in Japan, but traditionally it would be harvested at the beginning of winter, in late November and December. We were a bit late but were still able to find some fresh yuzu but ended up paying about double what we’d have paid earlier in the winter.
While yuzushu can be found in liquor stores and on restaurant menus, I have only had yuzushu that I liked a few times. The common yuzushu tastes like it was just ethanol mixed with yuzu juice, the kind of thing that gives you a big headache in a big hurry! That is not what I want to drink!
Properly, Japanese fruit liqueur is made by steeping fresh fruit in 35% alcohol and usually plenty of sugar. Usually the fruit is steeped for 6 months to one year and then the liqueur can be aged. Here we use rice shochu because it doesn’t have its own distinct flavor like mugi (wheat) or imo (yam). It tastes somewhat like vodka. Umeshu is surely Japan’s most popular fruit liqueur.
Yuzu Flesh and Peel – detail
After peeling the yuzu the pith is pulled away from the fruit and scraped away from the peel.
Scraping Pith from Yuzu Skin
Scraping Pith from Yuzu Skin
Yuzu Peel, Flesh and Sugar
Notice sugar at the bottom of the glass container.
Yuzu Peel, Flesh and Sugar: Pouring on Shochu
Yuzu Steeping in Shochu: Wait One Year
Yuzushu (Yuzu Japanese Citrus Liqueur) Recipe
- 1 kg yuzu (about 5 fruit)
- 1.8ℓ 35% shochu
- 200-300 grams of sugar (add more or less to suit your taste)
We of course didn’t follow any recipe. We used 7 yuzu, 1.8 liters of 35% rice (kome) shochu and a not much sugar. My theory is that the less dissolved sugar there is in the shochu, the more flavor will come out of the fruit. Miwa as usual is sure I am ruining it. I may add sugar after we remove the fruit. I will taste it first and add as needed. The sugar that we used is natural, raw sugar from Hokkaido, made from sugar beets.
- Wash the yuzu well.
- Peel and separate fruit and peel.
- Pull white stringy pith from fruit and with knife or spoon lightly scrape pith from inner side of peel.
Steep and Age
- Add yuzu peel and flesh and sugar and 35% shochu to non-reactive container, preferably glass.
- Remove Peel: Remove yuzu peel after a week to 10 days (taste). Squeeze lightly with cheese cloth and return liqueur to steeping container.
- Remove Fruit: Remove fruit after one month. Squeeze fruit well in cheese cloth to retain juice and absorbed shochu.
- Age: Age one year in cool, dark place.
Update – Removing the Peel (7 Days Later)
After 7 days we removed the peel. The recipes that we have seen said to remove the peel after 7 to 10 days. I think that we used a bit more yuzu than usual, 7 rather than 5. After 7 days, we tasted the yuzushu and thought that it was rather bitter. It does have to age for one year and as this is the first time we have made it, we don’t know how it will mellow over the aging period.
＊Recommendation: Sample the yuzushu every day and remove the peel when it reaches the right flavor for you. That point may be less than 7 days for you. I am guessing that the citrus peel ‘bite’ will mellow with aging, but that is just a guess.
I am also guessing that ‘bite’ will go very well with hot water — many Japanese like to drinking rather stinky yam shochu with hot water, called ‘oyu-wari’ in Japanese.
Removing Yuzu Peel
Removing Yuzu Peel
Of course you want to return this liquid to the container, I didn’t squeeze our too hard. We are going to make marmalade and candied peel with the leftover yuzu peel.
A Really Interesting Yuzu Confection
Yubeshi-mochi is an incredible mochi dish! The top of the fruit is cut off and the flesh inside is scraped out and steamed with mochi, the hot yuzu flavored mochi is poured into the yuzu shell, it is capped and then steamed. How it is eaten is very interesting, the yuzu is sliced vertically, peel and all and eaten. It is one of Japan’s best confections, rather rare though.