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Of making a traditional German Rumtopf

This year, I am finally making a Rumtopf – or a Rumpot, in English. Rommiruukku, in Finnish.

It’s a traditional German fruit preserve/beverage and there are as many variations as there are makers of it. Because you can vary the recipe in so many ways, consider these just overall guidelines.

The Rumtopf has been a culinary classic in the past, but become unfortunately untrendy in the last 10-15 years, though I am hoping for it to make a comeback.

Where did this all begin? Rum imports began in the 18th century. Close to the Danish border, Flensburg was where the West Indies fleet offloaded it’s boozy cargo and, from there, it was transported around Europe. The legend has it, that the rum importing sailors accidentally dropped some fruit into a barrel of rum which quickly developed into a way of transporting exotic fruit back to Europe – and a tradition was born.

Ye Olde way of making this starts in late spring when the first fresh fruit is in season and ends in autumn when the fruit season is ending – typically with pears, or apples or plums and such. However, these days you can probably make it all at once sometime in the middle of summer, when the fruit season is peaking and the ripe fruit times are overlapping. I’m making mine in two steps: I’m still going to add pears later in autumn.

To make a Rumtopf, you will need a large-ish container, depending on how many people you intend to feed with it. Mine is 4 liters and it’s definitely quite large. You can also use a couple of smaller jars, if you don’t want to opt for a big one.

I advise on perhaps actually getting a proper Rumtopf – not only are the clay pots beautiful, they also have handles (!!!) which become handy when you move around the pot filled with several liters of liquid and many kilos of fruit. They also don’t let light affect your fruit and preserving process. However, the pot should seal relatively well – but if you get one of the traditional ones, they will.

Making the Rumtopf

This is the foundation: fruit to sugar ratio is 2:1.  I used around 500g fruit and 250g sugar for most varieties but it depends on how big your pot is. For rum – have plenty available, you’ll see how much you need as you go. I think for my 4l pot, I needed around 2,5l rum.

And the fruit?

I opted for:

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Sweet cherries
  • Tart cherries
  • Apricots
  • Plums
  • Red currants
  • Gooseberries
  • Pear (later)

I also added some cinnamon & vanilla sticks to add some Christmas-y flavour to it. I am considering adding some star anis a little later.

Let’s do this:

  1. Carefully wash and dry the pot.
  2. Clean the fruits – or wash, when appropriate. Remove the hull, stem and/or stone.
  3. Layer the fruit and in between layers, sprinkle the sugar on top, toss around a bit if needed. Let sit around 1-2 hours, or when the sugar has visibly started to melt and draw liquid out of the fruit. Pour the rum in, so that all of the fruit is covered.
  4. Place plastic wrap on top and put the lid on. Store in a cool, dark place – either until Christmas or until you want to add another layer of fruit.

Some essential pointers:

  • Use regular caster sugar. Regular cane sugar might work, but you’d have to add significantly more of it. It can be tempting to use molasses or muscovado sugar but they are not really suitable for preserving, don’t use them.
  • Don’t skimp on the sugar. Better put too much than too little: the sugar is an crucial element in preserving the fruit. It’s also important for the taste: if there’s not enough sugar, the alcohol draws all the flavour from the fruit. That does makes a great liquor, but not so much a dessert/fruit preserve aka what we are making here. The point of  Rumtopf is the have best from both worlds: fruity booze and a boozy fruit.
  • Don’t skimp on the quality of rum. It doesn’t have to be high end, just tasty and flavoursome. The spirit is a key element in a Rumtopf – don’t use anything you wouldn’t drink straight.
  • Only use rum varieties that are stronger than 50% – anything less than that might cause the fruit to ferment. Rumtopf is about preserving the fruit not fermenting it.
  • Only use fruit that are in great shape – if you wouldn’t eat it out of hand, it doesn’t belong in your Rumtopf.

You can of course use a wide variety of fruits in your Rumtopf, however different fruit has different characteristics and some are more advisable than others. Other popular fruits are: grapes, peaches, nectarines, figs and pineapple. Many recipes advise to add peaches and nectarines without their skin. You can also make “themed” Rumtopfs – a red berries one or an exotic fruit one.

Some say blackcurrants and blackberries make the mixture and other fruits a funny colour and banana dissolves into a weird mush. Some recipes recommend melons – some advise against them. Some say apples are great, some say they take on an odd texture. Basically, the only way to figure out your favourite way of making a Rumtopf is to try it out!

Can’t wait until Christmas!






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1 Comment

  1. You have splendid ideas, Sara! Good luck to you in everything, and hope you’ll have a wonderful year 2018!

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