Yuzushu: Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur

How to Make Yuzushu (Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur) ゆず酒

How to Make Yuzushu (Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur) 柚子酒 ゆず酒 ユズ酒
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
How to Make Yuzushu (Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur) ゆず酒

Yuzu Detail
How to Make Yuzushu (Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur) ゆず酒

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 Peeled
How to Make Yuzushu (Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur) ゆず酒

Yuzu Flesh and Peel – detail
How to Make Yuzushu (Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur) ゆず酒

After peeling the yuzu the pith is pulled away from the fruit and scraped away from the peel.

Scraping Pith from Yuzu Skin
How to Make Yuzushu (Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur) ゆず酒

Scraping Pith from Yuzu Skin
How to Make Yuzushu (Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur) ゆず酒

Yuzu Peel, Flesh and Sugar
How to Make Yuzushu (Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur) ゆず酒
Notice sugar at the bottom of the glass container.

Yuzu Peel, Flesh and Sugar: Pouring on Shochu
How to Make Yuzushu (Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur) ゆず酒

Yuzu Steeping in Shochu: Wait One Year
How to Make Yuzushu (Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur) ゆず酒

Yuzushu (Yuzu Japanese Citrus Liqueur) Recipe

Ingredients

  • 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.

Preparation

  • 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
How to Make Yuzushu (Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur) ゆず酒

Removing Yuzu Peel
How to Make Yuzushu (Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur) ゆず酒
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.

How Yubeshi-mochi is Made

10 Responses to “Yuzushu: Japanese Citrus Yuzu Liqueur”

  1. Susan says:

    wow I wish I had the ingredients to make this! ~yummy~

  2. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Susan, Thanks for stopping by KyotoFoodie! Yes, we are quite fortunate to be able to get some really yummy and interesting ingredients throughout the year.

    There are a lot of great Western things we will can’t get — fresh beets and artichokes for example, but we can get pretty much everything that we want for Western food now, especially if we look around on the internet.

    One of the reasons I write KyotoFoodie is that I want to tell the world about some of the food in Japan that could be adopted abroad. It’s surely possible to grow yuzu in the US, for example. If I had some land there in the right climate, I would be planting yuzu trees. (I am sure there are some yuzu orchards there now, but we need a lot more!)

  3. Chris says:

    I think probably all of the tiny yuzu crop is being bought by fancy fusion restaurants — yuzu is a “cool” thing in the U.S., ever since Nobu Matsuhisa started using it (okay, I can’t resist — yuzing it) in everything.

    Incidentally, what is it with the beets? I’ve been quite surprised by their total absence here.

    (And I will refrain from telling you that there is a much easier, neater way to remove the pith from citrus skins….)

  4. Peko Peko says:

    Oh Chris, Do tell the easier way to remove the pith? Does it involve a real man’s steel knife, rather than ceramic? 笑

    Well, I already ’yuzed’ the yuzu, peels and flesh to make drunken yuzu kokuto (‘black’ sugar) marmalade. Am, … I feel that I have made a significant culinary discovery here. It isn’t even cooled down yet, but it tastes dang good!! My dilemma is to find bread in Japan that is good enough to put this nearly black marmalade on! I will have to go over to Nishijin, to that bakery that is only open three days a week for some real bread.

    By the way foodies, I got a new Mac and it rules. This keyboard is sexier than sexy!

  5. Gavin says:

    This looks great! A close chef friend of mine works in Alaska during the “season” and he makes something very similar with blueberries and brandy. He goes out on his off days and picks a good basket full. Then smashes them into a pulp (very coarse smash) and places them in a large amount of brandy. Lets them sit for a while and strains the pulp out. Places the rest into dark bottles and caps them with wax. Sets them on a shelf for 6 months and gives them away as christmas presents. Amazing on icecream or as a sauce for porkloin.

    I bet this will be great for both as well!

    As for the pith you could always use a peeler to originally peel the yuzu (a nice shallow cut with them) and then use your fingers to peel the pith away from the flesh of the fruit. I use this method for lemons all the time in my kitchen.

  6. Mora says:

    Great article and terrific step-by-step directions, not to mention the always incredible photographs. Talk about eye-candy!!! If I can find the time, I would love to try this with locally available citrus to see how it turns out. To your last point, writing about yuzu on a sexy keyboard has to be the only way. All the best to the KF gang.

  7. [...] Yuzushu article is here in case you missed [...]

  8. [...] love aomikan! Last year I tried to make aomikanshu liqueur (like umeshu, yuzushu, karinshu), but it didn’t turn out very well. I think that I didn’t add enough sugar [...]

  9. Sylvan says:

    I’ve just found a farmer here in the Bay Area who grows beautiful yuzu. They are inexpensive now and I’d love to try the yuzushu. How did last season’s turn out?

  10. I’m going to HAVE to try this. Looks amazing… Or maybe I should just come down to Kyoto and drink some of yours!

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