Yubeshi (written as 柚餅子) is a processed food which is made using citron. It is said to have appeared during the Genpei period (late 11th century - late 12th century CE) as something more like a kind of preserved food or portable provisions rather than a confectionery, and have developed over time into a confectionery like the present day. Today, it can be separated into those which are categorized under chinmi (food with a delicate flavor) and those which are categorized under a type of steamed cakes of Japanese confectioneries.
Yubeshi as chinmi
After the upper part of citron is cut away, the citron is hollowed and is stuffed with miso, Japanese pepper, walnut, and the like; then the upper part which was first cut away is placed on top as a lid. This is then wrapped with straw or the like to be dried in the shade for approximately one month to six months. When eating yubeshi, straw is removed, and yubeshi is cut into pieces appropriately to be served as an accompaniment to sake or a side dish for rice.
Yubeshi has existed since ancient times, and a process of making yubeshi as an accompaniment to sake is recorded in a cooking book titled "Ryori Monogatari" ("Tale of Food"), which was written in the Edo period. Even today, it is produced in places such as Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture and Totsukawa-mura, Nara Prefecture.
Maru Yubeshi (round yuzu sweets)
An upper part of citron fruit is cut away and the fruit is hollowed to create a yuzu (citron) cup, into which a mixture of citron flesh, glutinous rice flour, rice powder, white bean paste, and sugar, etc. are stuffed, and then the yuzu cup is steamed.
Since the process of making yubeshi requires a repetition of steaming and drying for twenty to thirty times until the citron cup turns yellowish-brown, it takes a period of three to four months.
(The reason which enables yubeshi to be stored for a relatively long period at room temperature is attributable to this process of making it.)
Furthermore, since the citron which is used for the yuzu cup must not have any damages and be of good quality, yubeshi is often served as luxurious chaka (a cake served with tea) at chaseki (tea ceremony seat).
According to a widely-accepted theory, Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture became famous as a typical production area of Maru Yubeshi because peddlers of wajima-nuri lacquerware carried it as portable food and also as a calling present to customers.
Bo Yubeshi (yubeshi bar)
A mixture of minced citron skin, glutinous rice flour, rice powder, white bean paste, soy sauce, and sugar, etc. is steamed and wrapped with a bamboo sheath. Saijo City, Ehime Prefecture is a production area of Bo Yubeshi.
As a flavoring agent
Yubeshi in the Tohoku region
Yubeshi in the Tohoku region such as Sendai Yubeshi does not contain citron. This is because Tohoku region was distant from the production area of citron, and thus it was difficult to use citron as an ingredient of yubeshi. Also, the reason for adding walnut is due to the fact that walnut was easily obtained as an ingredient.
Sendai yubeshi is flavored basically with soy sauce and has a sweet and salty taste because of the sweetness of sugar/muscovado sugar. In the Tohoku region, yubeshi is regarded as a kind of rice cake sweets instead of the original citron confectionery.
Yubeshi in the Tohoku region can be largely divided into two types.
In Sendai City, Morioka City, and Yamagata City, etc., rod-shaped "Kurumi Yubeshi" (walnut yubeshi) and "Goma Yubeshi" (sesame yubeshi) are cut into pieces and served.
In Koriyama City, triangle manju-gata (style of bun with bean-jam filling) yubeshi which is made by wrapping the paste with yubeshi dough is widely known. In Fukushima Prefecture, "yubeshi" often refers to this type.
Other types of yubeshi
In Ikinoshima Island in Nagasaki Prefecture, "yubeshi" refers to those made by boiling only the citron skin. The origin of this type of yubeshi is unknown. It is used as a seasoning. The process of making it is by thinly slicing the skin and breaking it into fragments.
Soy sauce is added, and it is heated at an extremely low heat for one hour, and for additional two hours after kelp broth and sugar are added. For two kilograms of citron skin, ten kilograms of soft brown sugar and one to two kilograms of granulated sugar are used.
Red pepper is added last, and after boiling for about thirty minutes, the yubeshi is complete.
(The method described here is a common method of making Iki Yubeshi as handed down in families)