German Rum-Preserved Fruit (Rumtopf)
This German method of preserving fruit in rum is more a ratio than a recipe: two parts fruit to one part sugar, covered with rum by at least an inch, with fruit continually added as it comes into season. Use the best fruit you can get your hands on (at season’s peak) and allow for resting time (at least 2 months of aging at room temperature, though longer is better). Do it right and your crock never empties out; as the seasons progress, so do your additions of fruit, this year’s nectarines mingling with the whispers of decade-old grapes.
Use the rum-soaked fruit to top cakes or ice cream, with or without the fruity liquor. You can also use that liquor as the base of sauces or to drink as a cordial. As for ingredients: Plums and cherries are especially traditional, but don’t hesitate to make rumtopf your own; just avoid creamy fruit like bananas or papayas. You can also substitute honey for some of the sugar (no more than 20%), if desired.
- 4 lb. mixed ripe fruit, such as strawberries, sweet and sour cherries, peaches, plums, apples, pears, and pineapples, cleaned, trimmed and pitted as needed (about 8 1/2 cups)
- 2 lb. granulated sugar (about 4 cups)
- 1 (750-ml) bottle 80-proof dark (but not spiced) rum
- Sanitize a 3- to 5-gallon ceramic crock or glass jar with scalding water and soap; dry.
- Combine the fruit, sugar, and rum in the crock, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly against the top of the mixture and up the sides of the crock to form a seal, then add a plate on top to weigh the fruit down. Cover the crock and let the rumtopf age in a cool, dark place for about 2 months. Over this time, you can add fruit as desired, plus half the fruit’s weight in sugar, and enough rum just to cover. If any mold forms on the plate or plastic wrap, discard the plastic, wash the plate, and replace with fresh plastic. Rumtopf will keep this way until your grandchildren discover it in your attic.