Last month I visited a Japanese home to look at an old folding screen, and while I was there I was served akajiso (red perilla) juice. I'd never had this refreshing taste in juice before. My hostess had a bottle of the sweet akajiso syrup sitting on the table, and to serve it, she diluted it with some water. It's a different flavor than green perilla (aojiso) which is used extensively as a garnish in Japanese cuisine. I was told it was very easy to make and I received the recipe a few weeks later.
I had planted some akajiso back in April on our rooftop, and it took awhile for them to start growing. Now that the real summer humid heat has kicked in, the akajiso shot up and was just right for picking. I was going to use it for pickling some daikon radish, but instead I wanted to make the sweet syrupy juice. I'm saving a few leaves for Peter who wants to make his own alcoholic version. All I needed was some citric acid (kuensan), readily available at any drugstore and voila, in about 5 minutes, I had some akajiso juice, or more fittingly, fuschia shiso juice. I love cranberry juice with sparkling mineral water, so I tried it with the red perilla syrup, and it was fantastic. Perfect to beat the summer heat.
2 liters water
300-400 grams red shiso leaves
800 grams sugar
30 grams citric acid
Bring the 2 liters of water to a boil. Rinse the shiso leaves and drain. Add the washed shiso leaves to the boiling water. Stir for about 2-3 minutes until the leaves lose their burgundy color. Turn heat off and remove the leaves, squeezing any excess liquid out. Add the citric acid and sugar and stir to dissolve. The liquid will turn a beautiful ruby red color. Let cool. Serve the juice diluted with water or sparkling mineral water.
*Update on July 24, 2012*
I received an inquiry whether I had tried lemon juice instead of citric acid. I had not and have not tried the following recipe given to me by the same host in my post above, but this one uses rice vinegar instead of citric acid.
6 cups water
200 grams red shiso leaves, washed
600 grams granulated sugar (this might be too sweet, so adjust to your taste)
1 cup rice vinegar
In a large pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the shiso leaves and lower to medium heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. In a large bowl, strain the liquid using a gauze cloth or fine cheesecloth. Return the liquid to the pot, add the sugar and vinegar and bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Skim off any skum and boil for about 20 minutes. Turn heat off and let cool in pot. When cool, transfer to a clean bottle or pitcher.
Serve the chilled juice diluted with water or sparkling mineral water.