Late Spring and early summer are ideal times to begin a Rumtopf, and starting in late spring early summer with cherries and strawberries, homes throughout Germany will prepare the first layer of their annual treat.
A centuries old traditional method of conserving summer's soft fruits, although it takes a few months before being 'ready to eat' the end result is well worth the work, and the wait.
Rumtopf is easy to make, hard to mess up and delicious. Fruits as they come into season throughout the summer are layered in a pot with sugar, covered with rum, left until Advent and then enjoyed at Christmastime and through the cold winter months.
Known and prepared long before the first found written recipe from the 1700's, the legend is that it was accidentally discovered by seamen to be an efficient, and enjoyable, form of conservation during their long voyages. Fruit picked up by the sailors on stops along their journey and stored had fallen into rum barrels, and, after tasting the result, they found not only had the fruit been preserved but also that the added flavour of rum was a bonus.
'Stored in rum' became the accepted way to transport and preserve fruit while under sail and was gradually adopted in kitchens throughout the country. However the description Rumtopf did not appear for the first time until 1885 in a cookbook, 'ABC der Kueche', written by Hedwig Heyl who, as she had been born into a North German ship owning family, knew something of the traditions.
Rumtopf (rum pot) Recipe
Soft seasonal fruit and berries (this is a rough guide as weather conditions influence what is available and when):
June: Strawberries, Cherries
July: Apricots, Peaches, Nectarines, Currants
August: Peaches, Nectarines, Loganberries, Yellow plums, Raspberries,
September: Pears, Dark Plums
Blackberries and blueberries can be added and are delicious, however they do color the other fruits
Star anise and vanilla pods can be put into to the Rumtopf in October
It is not traditional but pineapple can also be used and works well
Do not use:
Citrus fruit such as oranges or lemons as they are acidic and make the Rumptopf sour
Bananas and melons turn 'mushy' and make the liquor watery
Apples are not improved either in taste or texture by the rum and sugar mix
You will need:
Large wide mouthed jar, preferably stoneware or porcelain, alternatively dark glass container, with a well fitting lid, to be placed in a cool and dark area.
Dark or amber Rum - high strength at least 54 percent proof, preferably higher
Sugar Brown is best, half pound sugar to one pound prepared fruit or berries, weigh fruit and sugar
Wash container thoroughly with soap or vinegar water, rinse out several times with boiling water and dry
Use perfectly ripe and undamaged fruit without blemishes
Carefully wash, dry and prepare fruit. Do not peel any but the pears if you use them, and of course pineapple.
Small fruits and berries, such as pitted cherries, strawberries and currents, should be left whole and the other fruit 'spoon' sized, with medium fruit, plums, apricots, halved and pitted, and pears and peaches cut into wedges.
Put weighed prepared fruit in jar
Cover with a half quantity of sugar. 1lb fruit to 1/2lb sugar
Very gently stir through so sugar is distributed
Leave for one hour
Add rum to cover fruit and sugar mix completely and two centimeters, one inch, over
Cover with a small porcelain or ceramic plate to ensure the fruit stays under the rum, otherwise the exposed pieces will turn brown.
Seal jar, cover top with plastic wrap to make it air tight, leave in cool dark place
The fruit takes six weeks to mature completely but a second layer of seasonal berries or fruits can be added after two weeks.
Remove plastic wrap, lid and plate. Gently and briefly stir contents of jar.
Add additional layer of prepared fruit
Add sugar, do not stir
Leave for one hour so the sugar begins to work its way over the fruit
Cover with rum
Reseal top with lid and plastic wrap
Leave in cool dark place
An ongoing project this sequence can continue until October, with the fruit and berries of your choice as they come into season, and check now and then that the contents remain covered by rum adding more if necessary.
However if the fruits you want to use are all on hand at the same time it is possible to make the entire Rumtopf in a day, making sure the different layers are individually coated with sugar and left for an hour and then covered with rum.
After the final layer is added the Rumtopf must be left for six weeks to mature.
When the Rumtopf is ready it can be used for:
A sauce for ice cream: vanilla ice cream, large spoonful of syrup and fruit, warm or cold, served as sauce
A dessert: served in individual glasses "as is" with whipped cream or creme fraiche
A meringue sandwich: whipped cream and Rumtopf fruit, served with two small meringues or in a meringue shell
A cocktail: one part Rumtopf liquor to 2 parts sparkling wine, small pieces of fruit added to the glass
A fruit fool: puree Rumtopf, fold into whipped cream
A side dish for meats: warm Rumtopf, serve with pork, chicken, duck or game
As a drink or as a preserve: the strained Rumtopf liquid in a glass as a liquor or after dinner drink, small alcoholic pieces of fruit put into a bowl as 'alcoholic' canapes for guests to help themselves, as a warm or cold filling for pancakes, as a topping for cheese cake or baked apples
Viel Spass beim Ansetzen und Geniessen!
Have fun with the preparation and Enjoy!
Rumtopf photo by courtesy Neue Rezept - Rumtopf Topping on Baked Apples courtesy Apfel aus Deutschland
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If a wide necked ceramic pot is hard to find, the jar in the left hand picture is an excellent alternative. Keep it in a cool dark place and make sure the top is sealed, and you have a decorative container for your winter time Rumtopf treat.
While the right hand photo shows a traditional 6 pint German Rumtopf, which can be sent directly from Germany.