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Rumtopf

This is probably the easiest preserve to make.  They have an excellent recipe at Well Preserved.  Allow me to summarise: as fruit comes into season weigh it, cover with half as much sugar by weight and let stand overnight, the next day pour it into your rum pot and add enough alcohol to just cover.  Store the rum pot in a dark, cool spot, add to it throughout the summer and early autumn, and consume at Christmas.

My twist was to follow the French route and use brandy instead of rum.  A big part of why I did this is that a local brandy is available.  Kittling Ridge makes a small cask VSOP brandy which will not be putting  the French out of business as far as sipping consumers are concerned but will do nicely here.  And at twenty-three dollars for a two-six the price is right.

The other advice I’d offer is to choose a container which is more tall than wide.  A purpose-built rum pot (like the one pictured in this tigress post) is not necessary but I sometimes worried that the small but wide pickle crock I used let fruit bob above the surface of the protective alcohol.  Whatever container you choose you want to use some sort of lid that will keep dust and bugs out and prevent liquid and alcohol from escaping.

The name is German for rum pot and the transposition of the “p” and the “t” is confusing but it’s still more clear than the French name which is confiture de vieux garçon and means, I think, old bachelor’s jam.  In French Food My Way
Marc Thuet writes, “In Alsace, we also call it ‘the celibate’s jam’ because of its distracting alcohol content.”  I think the name also makes sense because it’s a thrifty use for the portion of fruit that always seems to spoil before one person can eat it all.

Why am I writing about rumtopf now when we couldn’t be further from the joys of fresh Ontario produce?  Well, for one because I was pretty busy last summer writing posts about our pizza oven project and neglected some of the usual topics.  But also many sources from the wikipedia article to chef Thuet’s cookbook encourage us to serve what comes out of our rum pots at Christmas.  Like other preserves almost all sources suggest serving on ice cream or waffles (substituted for the usual toast, one imagines, as a nod to puritanical views that favour not drinking your breakfast).

Well, that’s great, but who really eats enough ice cream to match a gallon or so of boozy fruit?  And I don’t know about you but sometimes I want it to have bits of cookie dough or tiny peanut butter filled chocolate cups in it and those don’t really go with brandy-soaked apricots.  I found some vanilla goat milk ice cream from Hewitts Dairy at Fresh from the Farm when I was picking up our Christmas geese and that went really well with the fruit but the ice cream is running low.

Sarah Hood uses hers to make Christmas trifle but I sort of missed that boat.  Maybe a midwinter trifle or something with a Scottish twist for Burns Night?

I can’t find the address to link to but I read about a blogger who gives jars of her rumptopf as gifts.  It seems a pretty obvious suggestion to share any preserve but she notes that people can buy very good examples of jams, jellies, and marmalades in stores but alcohol-preserved fruit is unavailable.  This is especially true of places like Ontario where legal authorities have decided it’s necessary to segregate the sale of booze and food from each other.

It’s the strained liquid that I’m finding really useful.  It has received high marks as a straight drink from those who are often most skeptical of my oddball preserving projects, my brothers.  I’ve also used the rumtopf liquor to stand in when a recipe calls for brandy or cognac.  My favourite example of this was using it to de-glaze the pan when making goose liver mousse for Christmas.  The pâté had a subtle fruitiness but also a distinct personal touch.  Obviously it has more fruit flavours than regular brandy but remember that it also has quite a bit more sugar so will taste sweeter and burn faster.

Rumptopf is a preserve that should attract both beginners because it is so easy and expert preservers because it produces such a flavourful, unique product.  I hope to repeat this project next summer.

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7 Comments

  1. Bev says:

    Sounds simple enough. I like the idea of not letting beautiful fruit go to waste. Think I’ll be trying this this summer. Thanks, David.

  2. foodwithlegs says:

    Thanks for commenting, Bev. You’ve hit the nail right on the head in terms of what is the best attribute of rumtopf. I’m always tempted to explore the various types of cherries, peaches, plums and other fruits that abound at farmers’ markets throughout the summer but can never eat them all before some go bad. Other preserving methods like jam require a lot of one or two fruits at once, not to mention a lot of effort in a steamy kitchen in August. Rumtopf is basically just pouring booze over fruit.

    Let me know if you have any questions when June rolls around. I’ll try to help but will probably have to refer you to more experienced hands like Joel or Sarah.

  3. Ah…. this would be a fun thing to do with our pounds of extra strawberries. Living in Florida, we are lucky enough that they are in season in winter and due to this year’s freeze, they are extraordinarily succulent and sweet. My only concern is our children; however, this might be the item that gets my rather exuberant 7 year old to sleep! Thank you for a most informative post.

  4. [...] quick and easy preparation.  I added a unique twist to mine by substituting brandy from my rumtopf for the called-for [...]

  5. Paul says:

    A good source of rumtopfs in the UK is http://www.rumtopf.co.uk. They have by far the best selection I have ever seen

  6. Brian C says:

    Do you know where I can find a good rumtopf container in the Toronto or Southern Ontario area?

  7. foodwithlegs says:

    Good question, Brian. I imagine your best bet would be either garage sales or the internet. The former will take more time and effort, the latter more money.

    Though really all you need is a really big glass container with a losse-fitting lid.

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