Green Plum Syrup (매실청 Maesil Chung)

Korean Plum Syrup (매실청  Maesil Chung)

Korean Plum Syrup (매실청 Maesil Chung)

Korean green plums (매실 Maesil, also: Chinese plum or Japanese ume) have been around for a long time. Records of  its medicinal purposes go far back as 200 AD. But  매실 엑기스(Maesil  Aekiss) or 매실청 (Maseil Chung) – green plum syrup – has only appeared in Korean cooking in the last 10 years or so. If you watch any Korean cooking shows or look up recipes on the internet these days, the syrup is used just about everywhere. In fact, it’s used a little too much in my opinion but that’s just me.. :)

The two terms, Aekiss (엑기스)  and Chung (청) are used interchangeably to describe green plum syrup. The word  “Aekiss” comes from Japanese and it was their take on the word “extract”.  Don’t ask me how you get “aekiss” from “extract”.. :) On a side note, it IS amazing how languages change in different cultures..I’m constantly reminded not to pronounce English words correctly in Korea because people never understand what I say. For example, if I say “Food” almost no one will understand whereas if I say “Pood”.. then everyone knows it!

The word Chung actually means a type of  syrup that’s made by either physically or chemically changing certain grains without any added sugar.  For example, Brown Rice Syrup (called 조청 Cho Chung) is made from culturing cooked rice with enzymes with no additional sugar.  So if you think about it, neither of these terms are fully accurate..

While I was living in the US, I resisted using Maesil Chung in my recipes. It’s not something I grew up eating and therefore I did not feel it was authentic.  Also, green plum syrup is not a very readily available ingredient for many people outside of Korea, so I hesitated using them in my Kimchimari recipes. BTW, if you can’t get any plum syrup, no worries, just use plain ol’ sugar or rice syrup instead.

Now that I’m living in Korea, I’m finding that I just can not ignore Maesil Chung anymore. It is such an integral part of Korean cooking that both my mother and mother-in-law (who is usually very traditional) now make maesil chung every year! In addition to being a great fragrant sweetener in cooking, Maesil also has many health benefits. Probably why it’s become so popular in Korea because Koreans just LOVE anything that is known to be healthy.

Chinese Plum or Japanese apricot plum tree

Chinese Plum or Japanese apricot plum tree

This May, I found these wonderful plum trees in our farm and after having tried it for a year, I just could not pass up the chance to make the maesil syrup myself!


** 2 lbs of plums produce about 1 quart of syrup

  • 2 lbs Green Plums
  • 2 lbs sugar (white or organic unbleached)~ 2.4 lbs  sugar
  • 1 glass jar or breathable earthen ware (항아리 Haangari) large enough to hold both sugar and plum


  1.  Wash the plums and drain. Let the plums completely dry by leaving it for few hours in a colander or better yet, spread them out onto a baking pan or tray lined with paper towel.

    plums_washed and draining

    plums_washed and draining

  2. While the plums are drying, remove any stems including the little stub near the stem. Removing the stub is not a must but if you don’t, stubs will later float around in the syrup and you will have to strain it to get rid of it.  Leaving the stubs intact also increases the chance of mold developing in the syrup.

    Cleaned maesil plums for syrup

    Cleaned plums maesil plums for syrup

  3. Discard any plums that are rotten because these can spoil the syrup.
  4. Sanitize the glass jar by rinsing it with boiling water or alcohol.
  5. Layer sugar and plums alternately in the jar. This means you need to divide the sugar and the plums equally so that you don’t run out of sugar at the end. If you layer the sugar so that it just about covers the layer of plums, it should work out OK.
    plum and sugar in jar

    plum and sugar in jar

    jar filled with sugar and plums

    jar filled with sugar and plums (approx 7 lbs of plums and sugar)

    And that’s it! Cover the jar and leave it in a cool place for 90 days and the syrup should be ready.

BUT WAIT!!! A bit more work is still needed..many (including me) have failed because they did not stir the syrup afterwards. See below – notice how the sugar has accumulated at the bottom of the jar. You need to stir the syrup every 2 days or so (prob. for about 7-10 days) until the sugar is fully dissolved in the plum juice. You should still stir the plum syrup every now and then for the remaining 80 days.  Stir if you see the top plums take on a different color or if you see white stuff appearing on top.

plum syrup- day 3

plum syrup- day 3

In addition, consider the following:

  • Don’t hold back on the SUGAR!!
    • The key to making good plum syrup is the ratio of plum to sugar. The basic  is 1:1 but depending on how big and juicy the plums are, you may want to increase the ratio to 1:2. More sugar increases the success rate since more sugar means less chance for mold to develop or turn sour instead of sweet. A friend of mine used exact 1:1 ratio and failed on her first try. So I decided to increase the sugar amount to not quite 1:2 but something like 1:1.5..and SUCCESS!!
  • · What sugar to use? Brown vs White vs Organic?
    • This is quite a dilemma…Using white sugar will intensify the plum fragrance in the syrup but we all know it’s not the best thing for your health. I used organic unbleached sugar here.  Brown sugar contains molasses like substance in addition to sugar which can diminish the flavor and fragrance of the green plums.

History of Korean plums: The oldest record of these little plums is in Chinese medicine. Chinese smoked these on top of a fire and used it to relieve pain and also take care of intestinal problems.  Japanese used Ume Boshi to prevent rice from going bad in the summer.

In the last few years, studies have shown the following:

  • The large amount of citric acid in the plums help the body get rid of lactic acid therefore helping the body recover faster
  • The acidic plums help with secretion of saliva and digestive enzymes aiding with digestion
  • The plum syrup kills off harmful bacteria to help with diarrhea and promote normal bowel function

From my personal experience. drinking plum syrup + water definitely helps with indigestion especially after a large meal so it’s definitely a great dessert drink. Enjoy!!

plum syrup after 30 days

plum syrup after 30 days


    • says

      If you were asking what alcohol I used for making the green plum syrup (매실청), the answer is no. The sugar ferments over time and does add a slight alcoholic taste to it though. There is a separate green plum wine (매실주), that does use alcohol. Honestly, I have not made 조청 but I do know it’s made from 엿기름(barley malt) and cultured cooked rice. I will be making 식혜 (shikhae) soon so I will be sure to discuss 조청 in more detail then! Thanks for stopping by!

  1. Be says

    Thank you for sharing this great tips and your steps by steps instructions. I Google translate several korean sites on the process and it is hard to understand via Google translate. By the way, do you mind if I can request several recipes? I am interested in the process of making persimmon vinegar; tofu blocks for making soy sauce and bean paste. Thank you.

    • says

      Sure! Those are very interesting requests – I will definitely keep them on my list. Making soy sauce and soy bean paste is traditionally done around Feb in Korea but I will see if it can be done under different weather conditions. Thank you so much for asking!

  2. tinamcho says

    I have a question–how do I prevent my maeshil from turning into alcohol? Today is the 44th day since making it, but since I live in Korea, in the HOT and humid weather, I think maybe that speeds up the process. The plums are all wrinkly, and today I noticed some white bubbles at the top. However, just a tiny layer of sugar remains at the bottom. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi! Mainly, the amount of sugar used compared to maeshil determines whether or not it turns into maeshil wine instead of fermented syrup. If you have not used at least 1:1 ratio (sugar: meashil) or more, you can add more sugar to help it from not turning into alchohol. And yes, the hot weather does not help either. Also, it helps if you stir your syrup at least once a day. If you have the white bubbles, just remove them as much as you can and then stir. The plums are supposed to be wrinkly so that’s fine. Try tasting it and if you think it tastes too much like wine, I would recommend you take out the plums and store the rest in the fridge. It will still ferment in there – just at a much slower pace. Last year, I put in a bit less sugar and did not stir often enough and actually ended up putting mine in the fridge at 80 days or so because I was getting too much of the white stuff. This year, it’s doing great at 40 days. Hope this helps!

      • tinamcho says

        Thanks so much!! This is my 1st time making it. I, in fact, tried to follow your recipe of 1:1. So maybe I’ll take out some of the plums and put some in the fridge.

        • says

          Did you use white sugar? or organic unbleached sugar? Organic sugar is a little less sweet than white sugar. Yes, just to be safe, take some out and put in the fridge. Good luck!

  3. says

    Thank you for this post. How do you strain it once the fermentation is done? Also, when you say your friend only used 1:1 maesil to sugar and it failed, what happened? I’m making my first batch ever and using a large jar and I’m nervous it’s not going to work after so much money and time. Thank you!!

    • says

      Hi! You can just use a colander to strain it since the maesil fruits will all stay intact. When there is not enough sugar it can become kind of like maesil wine/vinegar. Don’t worry – just make sure you stir often to keep any fungus or foam forming on top. You can also add more sugar later if it looks suspicious. Good luck and you are very welcome!

  4. says

    Should I really need to wait up until 90 days to enjoy the syrup? Now I’m at day 10th and the whole sugar has already dissolve completely..
    Thank you in advance for the answer…

    • says

      Yes. Because the syrup actually needs to ferment and at the end of 90 days the juice of the plum will be all extracted into the syrup. Right now its nothing more than just simple sugar syrup. Be sure to stir often to avoid the top area from becoming moldy. Be patient and u will have a wonderfully sweet and sour fermented syrup that u can use in your cooking!! Thanks for asking!

  5. says

    Hi there! I’m at about 75 days now and there is still sugar at the bottom. I didn’t stir as often as you mentioned because my mom makes it every year and she doesn’t stir so much (this is the 1st year I’m making it instead of her). Should I just stir more often for the remaining 15 days? Should I stir more AND let it feement longer than 90 days? When my mom makes it, the resulting syrup is thick like maple syrup but when I do stir, it’s still pretty liquid-y. Thanks so much for your help!

    • JinJoo says

      Hi! Hmm.. maybe your mom used more sugar? There’s a recipe that uses more sugar than just 1:1 and that could also explain why it was thicker? Yes, you should stir often for the remaining 15 days to make sure all the sugar gets dissolved. I don’t think you should ferment longer than 90 days. And the consistency is more liquidy than maple syrup so what you have now sounds pretty normal.
      Stirring also makes sure you don’t end up with fungi on top so I would say stir as often as you can.
      Good luck!


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