How to make German Rumtopf

How to Make German Rumtopf

So have you guys ever heard of German Rumtopf? This post is all about How to Make German Rumtopf. The name means Rum Pot and it’s basically a fruity alcoholic dessert made in a crock. Successive fruits are layered in with sugar and rum, starting in the spring with strawberries.

How to make German Rumtopf

My Rumtopf Pot

As the summer progresses and each fruit comes into season, it’s added to the pot, and the contents just get better and better. Once fall comes, and summer is over, the pot is closed up and left to mature until the Christmas season where it is traditionally first sampled for the first time in December on the first evening of Advent. We’ve been getting such good fruit this year that I don’t think there’d be an issue with starting a Rumtopf, now, even if it is a bit late in the summer.

Several years ago a fellow blogger, Iris from Wayfarer Inn mentioned she was going to try Rumtopf, a German and Danish specialty and I had to give it a try, too. I was psyched and made a stab at it but lost interest partway through the summer. Although making Rumtopf is fairly simple, it’s a bit of a process and I really didn’t have enough instruction. Now, thanks to the internet there’s almost too much information out there!

The problem is that some of it isn’t as complete as I’d like and some of it is conflicting. For instance, already this year I added some blueberries to my Rumtopf and then read a post later that said to never add blueberries! Too late! I also cut my strawberries and found later that most of the posts on Rumtopf say to leave them whole. Most concerning was that I didn’t have my fruit properly submerged or the lid properly sealed. Luckily, I caught that before any damage was done.

So I am detailing out How to make German Rumtopf as I go along so you won’t have to repeat my errors or make any of your own. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes, and hopefully will have the ultimate Rumtopf guide on How to Make German Rumtopf by the time I’m finished. I’ve linked to all my sources at the bottom of the page if you want to read even more about Rumtopf.

The Hardware to Make German Rumtopf:

To make German Rumtopf, you need something to put your Rumtopf in. There are special Rumtopf crocks that can be bought new or used. I saw quite a few on Etsy and Ebay. I kind of lucked out and came across a crock at a second-hand store that I’m using as my Rumtopf crock. Ideally, the neck wouldn’t be so much narrower than the pot in case you want to use a plate to hold down the fruit. Make sure it’s food safe and it doesn’t really matter what kind of crock you use.

Your container doesn’t even have to be a crock. It can be a cookie jar or a pickle jar or a big glass container. If your container doesn’t have a lid, cover it with aluminum foil held down by a rubber band. And even if your container does have a lid, cover it with plastic wrap and then add the lid so it has a tight seal and the alcohol doesn’t evaporate.

As far as size, the container can be any size you’d like. Anywhere from about 5 quarts, up to five gallons seems to be the norm, although some people make very small Rumtopfs, as small as half-pint jars, to give as gifts, using a single fruit or just a few select ones.

You’ll also need something to hold your fruit down below the level of the alcohol, just to make sure it’s being properly preserved and there will be no chance of it molding. A small plate can work, but keep in mind it may be stained by the fruit. I found a Ziploc bag, half filled with water and half filled with air was perfect. It held the fruit down by floating on top of it and there was no danger it might slip off the fruit to the bottom of the crock like the plate could. It also has the advantage of being able to slip through the narrower neck of my crock.

 

Choosing and Preparing the Fruit to Make German Rumtopf:

It’s traditional that only seasonal, local fruit be used to make German Rumtopf, but today with the wide availability of fruit, that can be your preference or not. Select only fruits that are at their peak of flavor and texture, of high quality with no blemishes. Slice or cube fruit as directed. Generally, unless you have a specific reason not to, most fruit will be cut to bite size.

There are some fruits which are said to be “key” and should always be included in a Rumtopf. They are strawberries, cherries, peaches, apricots, pears, and grapes. Rumtopf should be finished with pineapple in the fall.

The other fruits can be thought of as secondary fruits and can be nice to include in a Rumtopf, usually in lesser amounts. A rule of thumb is to use 500 grams, about 1 pound of each of the “key” fruits and 125 grams, about 5 ounces of the secondary fruits. Use what you like, just remember there are a lot of fruits available to use throughout the season.

Here’s a list of fruits, roughly in the order they appear seasonally, although it may vary in your area depending on climate. Don’t add them, though, until you read about how to add the fruit and the sugar involved, just below.

May and June:

  • Raspberries: The berries should be unwashed so they won’t lose the bright red color.
  • Strawberries: They should be unwashed in order to keep its bright color, and the stems and leaves should be removed. The strawberries, in the end, will lose their brightness into the rum and will soften.

July:

  • Apricots: Remove pits and skin and cut into small sections.
  • Cherries: Can be of different varieties available in the market. Remove the stems but it is your choice to pit or to preserve whole, pricking the skin several times with a needle so the alcohol can penetrate.
  • Currants: Remove all stems.
  • Gooseberries: The stems & husk from the fruit should be removed.
  • Nectarines: Remove pits and skin and cut into small sections. The peel will become soft if you don’t wish to peel.
  • Peaches: Remove pits and skin and cut into small sections. The peel will become soft if you don’t wish to peel.
  • Plum, American Wild: Remove pits and half or quarter.
  • Raspberries: The berries should be unwashed so they won’t lose the bright red color.

August:

  • Cherries, Sour: Remove the stems but it is your choice to pit or to preserve whole, pricking the skin several times with a needle so the alcohol can penetrate.
  • Nectarines: Remove pits and skin and cut into small sections. The peel will become soft if you don’t wish to peel.
  • Peaches: Remove pits and skin and cut into small sections. The peel will become soft if you don’t wish to peel.
  • Pears: Peel, core, and slice.
  • Plums, Yellow & Purple: Remove pits and half or quarter.

September:

  • Grapes, Early White and Red Seedless: Wash and prick several times with a needle.
  • Pears: Peel, core, and slice.
  • Plums, Purple: Remove pits and half or quarter.

October:

  • Grapes, Late Harvest White and Red Seedless: Wash and prick several times with a needle.
  • Strawberries, Fall Harvest: They should be unwashed in order to keep its bright color, and the stems and leaves should be removed. The strawberries, in the end, will lose their brightness into the rum and will soften.
  • Pineapple: Remove rind & core and cut in large cubes. Canned may be used.
Fruits Not to Use to Make German Rumtopf:

The following is the list of fruits that are not recommended for the Rumtopf. Add at your own discretion and only if they are truly a favorite.

  • Apples: Will turn an unpleasant brown color and have strange textural changes.
  • Bananas: Too soft, watery and mushy.
  • Blackberries: Their color changes the look of other fruits and some say they become bitter.
  • Blueberries: Their color changes the look of other fruits and some say they become bitter.
  • Citrus fruit like oranges and grapefruit: Can make the Rumtopf sour and bitter.
  • Huckleberries: Add as soon as possible after picking. Their color will darken other fruit.
  • Melons, including Cantaloupe & Watermelon: Said to make the mixture too watery and tends to lose flavor.
  • Rhubarb: Will make the liquid sour.
Special Additions:

Special Additions that are sometimes added to the Rumtopf, generally late in September or sometime in October, are cinnamon sticks, whole cloves whole allspice, citrus peels or star anise, Raisins are sometimes an addition.

Sugar & How to Add the Fruit to Your Rumtopf:

For your first batch of fruit, mix together equal measures of fruit and sugar (a 1 : 1 ratio) in a large bowl, then place the fruit and sugar in the bottom of your crock. If you’re using a pound of fruit, that will be a pound (approximately 2 cups) of sugar. Leave it to macerate and produce some juices, about three hours, then level off and cover with Rum to a level of one inch or about the width of 2 fingers above the fruit. The sugar used can be white sugar, brown sugar, or a mixture, depending upon your taste. Use a plate or half-filled Ziploc bag to weigh down the fruit, make sure the pot is well sealed and set in a cool, dark place.

It’s going to be most accurate to weigh the fruit and sugar, but the recipe isn’t so exacting that it’s necessary. If you just want to go by measurements, measure the prepared fruit and sugar to get your ratios. People have been doing that for a couple centuries.

When adding subsequent layers, there are two schools of thought: Some believe the fruit in the pot should be stirred (very gently so as to not cause the fruits to lose their shape) before the next layer is added. Others caution to “Never, never, never” stir the Rumtopf. It’s your choice.

Keep adding fruit throughout the season. For the next layers, the amount of sugar can remain the same as the fruit (1 : 1 fruit/sugar ratio) or be cut back to as little as half the amount of the sugar (2 : 1 fruit/sugar ratio). Again, the fruit should be mixed with the sugar and left to macerate and produce juices, this time in a separate container, for about three hours, before being added to the pot. Additional Rum should be poured in after the fruit is added to cover by an inch.

Each layer should be given six weeks. to mature. The Rumtopf, itself, isn’t considered to be mature until six weeks after the last fruit is added. If at any time, fruit is removed from the Rumtopf (perhaps, you know, for quality control purposes) it may be replaced with more fruit/sugar.

Throughout the process of making the Rumtopf, make sure to keep tightly lidded in a cool, dark place, watch the alcohol level and top off as needed. Make sure the fruit is weighed down. Check it for bubbles periodically; that means fermentation is happening in your pot. You’ll need to add a higher proof of alcohol to suppress it (more on that, below.)

The Type/Kind of Alcohol to Make German Rumtopf:

Traditionally, a dark flavorful rum is used, not the cheapest thing available but something special and high quality, in keeping with the nature of Rumtopf, which is rather a labor of love. According to Wikipedia, Rumtopf is often made with a strong, spiced Austrian Rum, Stroh. Stroh comes in various proofs, and it is a little unclear if the right strength (54% by volume, 108 proof) is available in the United States.

In order to properly preserve the fruit, the alcohol should be 50 to 55 percent alcohol by volume which is 100 to 110 proof. In the US, Rum is typically 40% (80 proof). Bacardi 151 or Goslings Black Seal 151 is 75.5% (151 proof), and by mixing together the 80 proof rum with the Bacardi or the Goslings, a pretty close approximation of 108 proof rum can be made. Using 1 liter of the Bacardi or Goslings to every 2 liters of the 80 proof rum (151 plus 80 plus 80 = 311. Divide 311 by the 3 liters and you’ll get about 103 proof) will put you in the safety zone of 100 to 110 proof.

Note that some say to just use the 40% (80 proof) Rum and monitor your Rumtopf. If it shows any signs of fermentation (small bubbles) add in some of the higher proof alcohol. Although your Rumtopf should be checked periodically, constant monitoring for fermentation seems a little high maintenance. I wonder about preserving fruit in alcohol through natural fermentation and making alcohol through natural fermentation and it makes me a bit curious why fermentation is such a no-no when making Rumtopf. Maybe it’s about control.

As far as the type of Rum or alcohol, although tradition dictates dark, others say to only use light. While some say use a spiced rum, others state the flavor is lost in the fruit. Some swear by a dark or light bourbon, Southern Comfort, or Vodka. You should use what you like and enjoy. You’re on your own figuring out the right proof for those other alcohols. Everclear, if you’re so brave, can boost the proof of any of the alcohols without imparting too much conflicting flavor. It’s worth noting that in some areas, a bottle of white wine is added to the Rumtopf a month before serving.

As to how much alcohol you’ll need, prior to starting your Rumtopf, measure the volume of liquid your crock will hold. The Rumtopf will usually end up being about a quarter alcohol. This varies as the alcohol is added to cover each addition of fruit by about an inch (or two finger widths.) You may need to purchase more or be left with extra rum. Oh dear, what a dilemma.

Safety warning: When using overproof Rum (or other overproof alcohol) care should be taken as it is highly flammable.

Serving Your German Rumtopf:

I’ve tried to gather all the ideas I saw along the line for serving Rumtopf. Keep in mind that the fruit is very boozy and may very well be more potent than the liquid, although they may not taste that way.

  • For Dessert: The spirited fruit is served over ice cream, angel food cake, pound cake, bread pudding, cheesecake, and many other desserts. It may be served in an elegant dish over Ricotta cheese, Bavarian cream, pannacotta, flan or vanilla pudding. The fruit may be topped by whipped cream, creme fraiche or sour cream. The fruit may be served with baked apples. For a nice syrupy sauce, dilute a bit of the strained liquid with water and thicken it with cornstarch.
  • For Breakfast: Consider it over pancakes, crepes or waffles. Top them with whipped cream for breakfast or ice cream for dessert.
  • For Imbibing: The sweet, fruity liquid can be enjoyed as an after-dinner liqueur or mixed into cocktails. Try filling a champagne flute 1/3 of the way full of the syrup and finishing off with champagne or sparkling water. Add a teaspoon or two of the Rumtopf syrup to a glass of white wine. Maybe add a small piece of the fruit to the glass.
  • Savory Uses: Use as a basting sauce or as a part of a sauce for ham or game. Start basting halfway through the cooking time and the sauce will caramelize creating a sweet coating over the meat. It’s a good accompaniment to beef, lamb, pork, or venison.
  • As Gifts: Ladle into pretty jars with a fun label and give as gifts. If you can spare it! Add it to a gift basket with angel food or pound cake and a few other fun items.
  • Other Boozy ideas: Check out this article with a lot of ideas from Melissa Clark of the New York Times.

 

For More Reading on How to Make German Rumtopf:

I couldn’t have come up with all this without looking at these fantastic sites! I owe a big thank you to them. Be sure to visit if you’d like to read up more on Rumtopf!

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I’ll be sharing my How to Make German Rumtopf post this week at Fiesta Friday 235, hosted this week by Mara @ Put on Your Cake Pants and Hilda @ Along the Grapevine. Don’t you just love both of those blog names? Click over and take a peek – I think you’ll love both of their sites as well. Mara has a gorgeous blog featuring more than just cake (although I think she excels at dessert) and Hilda’s blog is full of wonderful, natural recipes and sustainable hints. You’ll never look at a weed, plant or flower in the same way, again!

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How to Make German Rumtopf: Start in the spring with Strawberries, and as each fruit comes into season, add in layers with sugar and rum. Leave it to mature and you'll be richly rewarded in the winter. #GermanRumtopf #MakingRumtopf

30 thoughts on “How to Make German Rumtopf

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Oh gosh, we’ve been getting the best fruit in. I was just invited over to a neighbors the other day to help her pick pears – their tree is overloaded and ripe several weeks before normal. But now I have pounds of pears – some are going in the Rumtopf and I haven’t decided on the rest yet! I’m glad I brought home some memories for you! Any special advice you can give me?

  1. This is truly amazing Mollie!! I’m hoping we get a full taste test report in December!! (and you’re right! I’d never heard of this– you are always expanding my horizons! That’s one reason I love your blog). xox

    • FrugalHausfrau

      I felt the same way when I first heard of it. My grandfather was first generation German and granted he married an Irishwoman, but they lived in a very tiny town in Iowa founded by several Germans in the 1880s, It was about 12 miles from the town I grew up in, and so there were lots of German relatives around. And I never heard of this, ether! Maybe the prohibition kind of broke the tradition or else they just weren’t really drinkers.

  2. This is fascinating – I’ve never heard of a dessert that involves so much preparation and planning ahead! I enjoyed reading all about the backstory and the method. Thanks for sharing this at Fiesta Friday!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      lol. well keep in mind that you’re going to end up with a couple pounds of boozy fruit and all the liqueur. I suppose it was one way to preserve it all! I can’t wait for December and I usually don’t say that!

  3. Ron

    Rumtopf is also quite popular here in Sweden. Such a tradition this was in my Grandmother house. At times it didn’t smell so good, but when Christmas came it was fantastic.

  4. This is something I have meant to make but never think of it soon enough in the year.. Your tips are very helpful if I do manage to get around to it. That is a beautiful pot!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Thanks! It was the 2nd hand store for four bucks! I suppose you’d have to have a very specific decor if you wanted to use it to decorate with. But I think it was perfect for my Rumtopf!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Sheree, this will be my first (unless you count the one I started a few years ago and never really finished) so I’m excited! Our Decembers are so cold here in Minnesota so I’m picturing myself already having a little glassful by the fireplace!

  5. It sounds like a very old fashioned dessert using the alcohol to preserve seasonal fruits. I’m sure it’s going to be worth the investment in time etc. By the way, I love your crock.

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Thanks! It’s kind of fun, those bright colors. I think it will be a cookie jar when it’s not being used for Rumtopf.

  6. Wow does this bring back memories! Terrible ones! My mother was always into alcoholic desserts, even tho she wasn’t a drinker of much. baba au rhum nearly killed me. and she had an old German rumtopf jar which i now have, and would make it, serve the fruit over ice cream, and i’d nearly die! It was all too strong for me! As a result I’ve never made it, but I’m a bit more of a drinker now than i was at, say, 6 years old. Next year I’ll start in the spring. a great, informative post.

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