As warm weather descends, it’s time to start thinking about preserving seasonal fruit at its peak of ripeness. While most turn to labor and time-intensive canning and pickling, there’s an even easier way keep summer flavors fresh: Meet the old-fashioned German rum pot.
Rum pot, or rumtopf, is a classic German fruit condiment that’s named after the ceramic crock in which its ingredients are fermented. Legend has it that the rumtopf tradition dates back to the 18th century, when rum was first imported from the Caribbean to Germany along with tropical fruit. While the fruit was highly perishable, when combined with rum it could be enjoyed for months. Today, Germans assemble rumtopf during the spring and summer when ingredients are at their peak, and then consume the rum-saturated fruit in both sweet and savory preparations during the winter.
Rum pot’s appeal lies in its simplicity and versatility. No recipe is required. Just start with fresh fruit. Strawberries, plums, peaches, and pears are common, but fruits like mangoes and pineapple can be delicious, too. If ingredients are slightly overripe, that’s okay because that usually means the fruit will be a bit sweeter, and it will break down in the rum over time anyway. Just make sure to disposed of any inedible fruit bits, like seeds and stems. For oranges, remove the peel and the bitter pith. It’s best to avoid fruit with a high water content, like melons or bananas, because they can disintegrate while macerating. Otherwise, go crazy with any desired flavors.
The basic idea behind rum pot is to soak diced fruit for at least two months in rum—which acts as a preservative. First, cut the fruit into bite-sized pieces and toss with white sugar. The traditional ratio is one part sugar for every two parts fruit. For a less sweet preserve, reduce the ratio to one part sugar and four parts fruit.
Next, add the diced fruit to a jar—a one gallon mason jar or ceramic cookie jar works well. But any large non-reactive vessel is fine. Pour in enough rum to soak the fruit, and make sure that all of the pieces are completely covered with the booze. The rum will protect and preserve the fruit as it ages, but if any pieces are poking out they will be exposed to oxygen, and could attract mold.
Finally, cover the jar with a lid or plastic wrap and wait. The rum pot will be ready in two months, but afterward will keep indefinitely. One can also add new fruit to the mix as the seasons change and new produce comes to the market. Just make sure to let the fruit macerate two months before consuming, and ensure that the fruit is always submerged under the rum.
After two months, it’s time to get creative. The boozy fruit is tasty atop ice cream, pound cake, or cheesecake. It can be mixed with fresh or frozen fruit and baked into a pie or crisp, or it can be used in place of compote in savory dishes involving duck or lamb roast. Adding a spoonful of the liquid into sparkling wine makes a simple and lightly fruity two-ingredient cocktail.
Assembling a rum pot takes roughly 15 minutes, and only generates two dishes to clean. And for such a simple technique, it yields a product with asurprisingly complex taste. The resulting compote takes on sweet vanilla notes from the rum, fresh fruit flavors, and just a touch of sweetness. The return on investment can’t be beat, and the boozy-buzz is just the cherry on top. And speaking of cherries, those would be a great addition to a rum pot, too.
Editor: Kat Odell