German Preserved Fruit in Rum (Rumtopf)

German Preserved Fruit in Rum
Rumtopf, Flickr CC 2.0
  • Total: 40 mins
  • Prep: 40 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 3 gallons (25 servings)

Rumtopf is a delicious, boozy fruit compote that consists of a process whereby fruit is added to a crock as it becomes ripe from June until October, along with sugar and overproof rum (108 proof, 54% or higher) to preserve it. It is then allowed to sit in a dark, cool spot such as a cellar, for six to nine weeks so that by winter time, it is ready to be enjoyed.

It is a tradition that many families renew yearly. The classic recipe is one in which the Rumtopf is begun in the summer and opened close to Christmas after it has had plenty of time to ripen. Traditionally, the father is the one to open the crock and eat the first helping.

Ingredients

  • For the Main Fruit:
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Apricots
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple
  • For Optional Fruit:
  • Plums
  • Nectarines
  • Blackberries
  • Mirabelle plums
  • Walnuts
  • Raisins
  • For the Other Ingredients:
  • 1 (750-ml.) bottle 108-proof dark rum per pound of fruit
  • 8 ounces sugar per pound of fruit

Steps to Make It

  1. Strawberries in June and cherries in late June are the first fruits to go into the crock. For every pound of fruit, you will use a half-pound of sugar and 1 bottle (750-ml, about a fifth of a gallon) of 108-proof, dark rum. 

  2. Wash the fruit and remove the hull, stem and/or stone and place in the crock. Sprinkle the fruit with the sugar and let it sit for at least 1 hour.

  3. Then pour the rum over the fruit to cover. Place plastic wrap on top of the liquid, close the crock, and put it in a cool, dark place until the next batch of fruit is ready to add.

  4. Apricots and cherries are classically added in July and peaches, plums, grapes, and nectarines in August. Repeat the procedure using these fruits.

  5. In September, it's time to add pears and raspberries.

  6. In October, half a pineapple is added (out of season and often from the can, but now a tradition).

  7. If you wish, add cinnamon sticks or star anise to the crock in October, too. After the last fruit is added, place some cling wrap on the liquid, close the crock and leave in a dark, cool place for at least four weeks before enjoying.

Tips

  • To create rumtopf you will need a container large enough to fit several pounds of fruit and a few liters of rum. A three-gallon crock is typical, but gallon canning jars can be used as needed. As long as the vessel can be closed tightly, you can use it.
  • Caution! Highly flammable. Overproof rum can be highly flammable. Bacardi 151 even carries a warning on their label and says not to use it in flaming drinks. Any overproof alcohol is highly flammable and should be used at your own risk.
  • Since you do not need a 150-proof rum, you can dilute Bacardi 151 or Gosling 151 with regular, 80-proof rum (which is less expensive) in an approximate ratio of 2 bottles 151 proof to 3 bottles 80 proof.

Eating Your Rumtopf

Rumtopf is good on top of puddings, ice cream, pound cakes and you might even like it placed in the bottom of a champagne glass and filled to the top with champagne.

However, you wish to use rumtopf, remember that the fruit is full of alcohol, even though it does not taste very strong, and should be consumed in moderation.

Fun Fact About Rum in Germany

Rum has been imported to Europe since the 18th century. The German city of Flensburg, on the border with Denmark, was the seat of the West Indies fleet, which traded with the Virgin Islands. From there, rum was spread throughout the continent and was, and still is, used in rumtopf to preserve fruit for the winter. Some people believe it was discovered by the rum importers who also wanted to import tropical fruit. The fruit did not transport well but when some of it accidentally fell into a barrel of rum and it remained preserved and edible, a tradition was born.