Thursday, July 7, 2011

Did you know that July is National Ice Cream Month?

It is! And while National Ice Cream Day is still a few seeks away (it's July 17, if you're planning ahead), this week is a great time to try some new flavors...maybe even create some new accompaniments for that sweet treat.

When I was a kid, my mom used to start a big jar or sliced peaches marinating in rum at the beginning of the season. And, it being the '70s, the kids were also allowed to have a generous spoonful over their ice cream in the middle of summer.

After a quick google search, I found that this is actually an old-fashioned German Christmas dessert: Rumtopf. And the recipe is just as simple. I remember it...

Rumtopf from whats4eats (German rum-soaked fruit dessert)
Begun in the spring, boozy Rumtopf, or "rum pot," is a German Christmastime favorite. Fresh seasonal fruits are sweetened with sugar, layered in a pot and soaked with rum. New fruit is added as it comes into season. The luxurious results are enjoyed as a holiday dessert.
Servings vary according to the size of your pot.

Seasonal fruit, trimmed, pitted, cut into pieces if necessary
White or brown sugar
Dark rum, 100-proof

You will need a large glass or ceramic pot with a lid. One to two gallons is a good size. A decorative pot is nice too. Clean the pot well with hot water and soap and rinse thoroughly.

For your first batch of fruit, mix together equal measures of fruit and sugar in a large bowl. So 2 cups of fruit get 2 cups of sugar. Let stand for 15 minutes, then place the fruit, sugar and any juices in a smooth layer on the bottom of the pot. Pour in enough rum to cover all the fruit by about an inch (prevents spoiling). Set in a cool, dark place.

Repeat this process for the remaining fruit as it comes into season, except the proportion of fruit to sugar changes to 2 to 1. So 2 cups of fruit would get 1 cup of sugar. Layer all new fruit nicely over the last layer without mixing. Add additional rum to cover by one inch.

Keep adding fruit, sugar and rum through the summer and fall, stopping around mid- to late-October. Then let the Rumtopf rest until the beginning of Advent in December, when you can begin enjoying it alone or over ice cream, steamed puddings, cheesecake, pancakes or waffles. Strain the ruby-colored liquour and enjoy it as a cordial.

Preparing the Fruit: Pick fresh, clean fruit without blemishes. Smaller fruit like currants, cherries (pitted) and grapes should be left whole if possible. Medium-sized fruit like apricots and plums can be halved and pitted. Larger pears and peaches can be cut into large wedges.

Recommended Fruit: June: raspberries, strawberries, cherries, pineapple. July: apricots, peaches, nectarines, currants. August: sour cherries, yellow plums, figs. September: purple plums, pears. October: red and green seedless grapes.

Fruit to Avoid: Melons and bananas are too soft and watery. Dark berries like blackberries and blueberries can discolor the other fruit. Citrus fruit like oranges and grapefruit can make the Rumtopf sour and bitter. Apples probably work but aren't really traditional.

Make sure to use minimum 100-proof rum for your Rumtopf to ensure that your fruit doesn't spoil.
Try using spiced dark rum, or add a cinnamon stick, some whole cloves or a star anise sometime in October.

Rumtopf-Cocktail: Mix 1 part rumtopf juice with 2 parts German sekt or other sparkling wine in champagne glasses. Add a couple pieces of fruit and enjoy in moderation.

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