Tigress got the ball rolling back in June when she wrote about her plans to start a rumtopf using her new-fandagly fermenting crock. I don’t think I’m the only one she inspired to rumtopf-along with her, but first I needed a suitable jar. The only pots I’ve seen for making rumtopf have always struck me as hideous; big bulbous lumpy jars illustrated with fruits and the word ‘rumtopf’ etched on the front, the recipe is right there on the jar. A fermenting crock would be a very cool to use, but as they are hard to find and when found cost in the region of £80, one of them was way out of my league. I kept my eye on Ebay and eventually found a jar that I could live with. You can make do with a tall clip-top preserving jar instead if you like but I’m enjoying making my rumtopf in its own purpose designed container.
So the jar eventually arrived and it is definitely vintage 70’s. I peered inside and caught a glorious wiff. The jar was not only vintage but had been used before. I knew this as the lightly crazed inside had soaked up previous alcohol and fruit flavours. It smelt fabulous, fruity spirit with a hint of lovage! I couldn’t stop sniffing and shoving my head further inside to soak up the aroma. The jar is about head size, you could effortlessly slip your head inside whilst becoming mesmerised by this magical scent and the desire for more, but slipping it out again may not have been quite so easy. I stopped short of ending up in casualty with a rumtopf on my head. That would have been ridiculous but, come to think of it, would have ensured a mention in the Forest Review.
So what is a rumtopf? It is a way of preserving fruit in alcohol. You start it June – July time, add different fruits in layers as they come into season, throughout the summer and autumn, along with some sugar and enough rum or brandy to keep it submerged, and when it is full, about 6 – 8 weeks before Christmas, you then leave it till ready to devour at Christmas time. The contents can be decanted into kilner jars to give as gifts, the fruit can be eaten with cream or ice cream and the alcohol, which I understand is deceivingly dangerous, can be drunk as a liqueur or added to sparkling wine.
Most fruits are suitable with just a few exceptions; melon is too watery, the skins of blueberries and gooseberries go hard, bananas turn to mush, citrus fruits and rhubarb are a no-no. Traditionally you start with the first strawberries of the year, any amount between 250g – 750g plus half its weight in sugar. Remove the stalks and leave the fruit and sugar in a glass dish to marinate overnight and help release the juices before decanting it into the rumtopf jar. Pour rum or brandy over it until it is completely submerged, then find a plate or saucer that will fit inside the jar and push it under the alcohol so that the fruit can’t bob up to the top. I have read that the alcohol should be at least 54% proof and as spirits on general sale are usually around the 40% mark I had to seek out some overproof stuff. Asda sells an overproof white rum at 63%, so I mixed it, two thirds overproof to one third normal dark rum to get somewhere near the 54%, make the rum go further and give it a darker colour. I think this may be a mere detail and am sure that most people don’t go to so much trouble.
You continue to add more fruity layers as they appear; raspberries, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, apricots and blackberries. Use any amount of fruit you have, adding half its weight in sugar each time and making sure to add more alcohol when needed to keep it covered. Cover the top of the jar with clingfilm and put the lid on top of that then leave it in a cool place out of the way to do its thing. If using a clear glass preserving jar, keep in a dark place as well. I’m up to my third layer of fruit so far but just can’t stop myself having a sniff everytime I walk by the jar.