Rumtopf Revelations

We finished an almost yearlong experiment this past week – not at the lab, but at home. You see, last year a friend of our had inherited Rumtopf from an elderly aunt and wanted to know if we could try it.

Now, I had never heard of a Rumtopf before, but my Germanic curiosity was peaked. As it turns out, a Rumtopf is a ceramic crock that is designed to marinate fruit, sugar and rum for months, so that at the end of the year you have an extract of fruity rummy awesomeness.

As you can imagine, I was pretty sold with the idea at “rum”.

So, way back in the spring, we started with an empty Rumtopf crock, a pound of strawberries, and a half-cup of sugar. We put those things in the Rumtopf and covered them with dark rum. The lid went on with an extra seal of plastic wrap and the whole thing was put in the back of the pantry.

This process (pound of fruit, half-cup of sugar, cover with rum, back in the pantry) is done several times over the course of the spring and summer. Over the next few months, we added grapes, nectarines, pears and plums (there is a good guide here). The final addition went in late in September and we hadn’t touched it since.

We decided to have our friend over for the opening of the Rumtopf and decided to make it a German affair. We made a dinner of sausages, sautéed cabbage (Napa cabbage, come on, this IS California) and pretzels.

We even had a German dog in the house for the festivities.

Everything was excellent, but we wondered what the Rumtopf would hold when we opened it. Would it contain fruity rummy awesomeness or a boozy science experiment gone horribly wrong?

We strained the liquid from the fruit. The fruit was all brown in color (as you might imagine) and had a really pungent rum taste. Remember Rum Raisin ice cream? It was like that x100. We had some on pound cake and decided that a little went  a long way.

But the liquid? Oh my. It was a dark caramel in color and rich with spices and fruit. We each had a small glass of it and declared it an unqualified success – and makes a fantastic after dinner dessert drink. ( Question: Have any of you done this before? And if so, why haven’t you told me about it?)

Some of us may or may not have had another glass.

There was enough that I know it will last through the New Year, but like the Holidays, I’m sure its wonderful sweetness will be but a memory by February.

But that’s okay, the local strawberries will be in by March and we can start a batch for 2012.

46 thoughts on “Rumtopf Revelations

  1. nice. thanks for sharing.
    my Basque grandmother did something similar to macerate cherries, grapes, orange sections and peels, other stuff I don’t remember for her fruitcake. to this day I like fruitcake.
    there *may* have been a liquor created – that would have been my grandfather’s department.

    • That does seem like it would be a great fruitcake — though I don’t think I’ve had anyone in my life MAKE fruitcake. We could be on the cusp of a fruitcake renaissance.

    • A farmer friend once explained to me how maraschino cherries are produced commercially– they are picked very, very green. Ugh. By comparison, I’m sure that your grandmother picked fruit that was a little more ripe (firm, but not too ripe), yes? I would imagine that makes a much better difference.

  2. I saw the abbreviated version of this in my WP feed and saw the photos of the sausages and thought you had thrown them in there too. Actually, that sounds kind of good. I’d never heard of a rumtopf before (and I am part German, took 5 years of German in school and have been to Germany a couple times too….). interesting!

    • We almost beer-boiled the sausages, but they were bison and assagio cheese (I mean, come on this IS California) and so we went in the skillet. They were great.

      I’m like you — I had German all through school and a little in college and had never heard of a rumtopf either.

      • Oh my gawd those California (lolz) sausages sound delicious!!
        Glad I’m not the only one who studied German and never heard of it. I’m surprised Herr Shively never mentioned it, it sounds right up his alley. Although…maybe he did & I just wasn’t paying attention (I’m actually not a fruit eater so it’s possible…) I should ask my sisters tomorrow, we all studied it & went there.

    • My heritage is primarily Danish when it doesn’t go back to the British Isles, so I grew up with butter cookies, kringler, and grated carrot in meatloaf. But good food is good food, so I adore sausages, cabbage, and pretzels. I haven’t made my own sausage yet, but I have made pretzels from scratch.

  3. My parents had a German neighbor who brought them a jar of rumtopf, only it was made from plums and apricots. Mom & Dad were too scared to try it, as they’re both teetotalers, so it fell on my shoulders to open the gift and taste it. It was wonderful stuff! I poured the fruit onto pound cake, but didn’t attempt to drink the liquid. Now that you’ve educated me, I’ll try making it myself and will make a point of drinking the rum. But I probably won’t be able to report on the results for a while, heh.

    • It is certainly an exercise in delayed gratification! We had a long debate about what other fruits we might add to alter the flavor. For a while I imagined parallel crocks in the pantry and a comparative tasting at the end…. :)

    • I like rum, but alcohol + me is a bad combo, and so I have more than one reason to be a teetotaler, too. But although I’m not strictly kosher in the kitchen, Cimmorene is, and so ginger (pickled, raw, or non-alcoholic ale) usually serves as the substitute.

  4. I love witnessing the birth of a tradition before my very eyes.

    At first I thought you were going to throw out the liquid, but serving it as a type of dessert liqueur is nothing short of brilliant.

    • SS — yes, it was a great night — a fun celebration.

      I know about the titles. I loaded the pics up one morning and then wrote the post a couple of days later. And when I did, I forgot to do the titles… :-/

    • MT — there’s a part of me that wants to have a whole pantry of small little “topfs” incubating for the year so that I can do a taste-test each Christmas. Maybe when I’m retired… ;)

  5. Beautiful! Although I would be afraid to do this absent some knowledge of chemistry. Sounds delish. And cute dachshund. I also have to ask by the way, where did you get your apothecary cabinets? They are gorgeous.

    Did I ever tell you I made a love potion by steeping blue vervain, whiskey and apricots in a closet for two weeks?

    • Thanks Amelie! I can only say that the cabinets were here when we bought the place. In fact, I think they had been just installed to help sell the house.

      I don’t think any knowledge of chemistry is really required — only the ability to keep some saran wrap covering the “topf” so it doesn’t grow anything else.

      A Love Potion?? Did it work??? :)

  6. the family of my best friend in elementary school used to do this year round. looking back, it surprises me because they were UBER up-tight religious yet would let us kids have this concoction, on ice cream, any time we wanted.

  7. This sounds like something my husband would be interested in! He’s just begun experimenting with homebrew mead and apvfelwein and all that – and, added plus, this sounds like something I’d enjoy drinking!

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