Basically it's very simple: fruits are pickled with sugar in rum. You start in June with strawberrys (and sugar and rum), and continuing through the summer you add seasonal fruits (and more sugar and rum). In October you finish the Rumtopf with pineapple (not raelly a seasonal fruit, but indispensable). After that it takes 6-9 weeks for the Rumtopf to get `ripe', so it will be ready for tasting around Christmas. So here is my Rumtopf recipe:
Use a big vessel (at least 5 litres (5 quarts)) and be sure to have a spare one, because it tends to turn out to become more Rumtopf than you expect. I use a traditional ceramic pot and some big bottling jars for extra room. Rumtopf should normally be kept cool (not cold) and dark, e.g. in the cellar.
Fruits: use at maximum 500g (1 lb) per fruit type. Normally 300g (11 oz) for the "main fruits" and 125g (5 oz) for the "extra fruits" are a good measure, but if you want to produce a lot of Rumtopf, take more. But beware: there are many kinds of fruit through the summer!
Preparation of the fruits: use fresh, ripe fruits. Big fruits (peaches, pineapple and such) have to be cut in eatable bits. Peaches and similar don't need to be peeled, because the skin will get soft in the rum. Smaller fruits (strawberries) just cut in half. Remove stones from cherrys. Don't cut grapes in half, pierce them with a needle. Put the prepared fruits in a separate bowl, cover them with part of (or all) sugar and let them produce juice for one to three hours.
Amount of sugar: 50% to 100% of the weight of the fruits. Normal white sugar is fine. You can also use brown sugar, if you like, or mix.
Rum: it has to be the 54% (108 proof) vol, brown kind of stuff. Don't take the cheapest brand, but it hasn't to be something special. Account for about 1/4 of the completed Rumtopf to be rum (that is one bottle in 4 litres completed Rumtopf).
A Special Note by Sea Dog: I have found that rum should be at least 54% (108 proof) (54% rum is readily available in Germany) to properly preserve the fruit. In the U.S. where rum is normally sold at 40% (80 proof), I use two 1.00 liter bottle of Bicardi's 151 proof (75.5%) Rum and four 0.75 liter (750 ml) bottles of 80 proof (40%) rum to give me a final rating of 110 proof for the normal amount of Rumtopf that I produce each year using a 3 gallon ceramic crock. The rum will be further diluted by the sugar and the juice extracted by liquification.
Adding fruits: you prepare the fruits as described above. You stir the Rumtopf accumulated up to that time a little bit, then put the new fruits and sugar on top and add as much rum as is needed to cover all fruits. (The fruits tend to float atop; don't worry.)
Main fruits: these should be part of every Rumtopf: strawberries, cherrys, peaches, apricots, pears, grapes.
Extra fruits: these you can add if you like them and can get them: red currant, mirabelles, melon, orange, banana, kiwi, mango, lychee, nektarines, plums, raisins. Apples don't seem to be a good addition.
Finish: at last, in October a pineapple (or at least part of it) is added to the Rumtopf. After that put it in your cellar, stir a little bit every three or so weeks and let it ripe.
Keeping it: you always have to keep the vessels closed, e.g. with a film and a lid. Keep it cool (not cold) and dark.
Warning: beacuse of the osmotic pressure, after the ripening there is considerably more alcohol in the fruits than in the liquid! But you wouldn't guess from their taste...
You can savor Rumtopf pure, or with ice cream or other desserts. Also very fine: put 1/3 Rumtopf in a long drink glass and fill with champagne.
Another Special Note by Sea Dog: Rumtopf is great over ice cream, pound cake, and just by itself. In a glass of white wine, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of Rumtopf and enjoy. Spoon the Rumtopf over a bowl of ice cream as desired. Rumtopf also adds a new dimension to an ordinary slice of pound cake or bowl of ice cream. The excess, strained juices from Rumtopf makes a fantastic cordial liquer. Use your imagination.
Yield: As many servings as you make...
Preparation Time: 6 months
From Sea Dog
Recipe by Holger Behme with ingredients list and notes by Sea Dog.