SEATTLE — When I was young, foolish and living on an island known for its distillation of sugar cane, I met up with a powerful fellow named Ronrico.

In the aftermath of that tropical storm, my head was pa-rum-pa-pum-pum-ing and I swore, like many a foolish imbiber before me, I’d never touch a bottle of Ronrico – or any other type of rum – again.

Promises, promises. I’ve since developed a taste for the stuff, thanks to a recipe for rumpot.

What’s great about this fruity treasure is you can make a big batch of the rum-stoked fruit, keep it in the fridge and never lack for a sweet fix:

There’s rumpot for mixing with yogurt or spooning over pancakes at breakfast. Rumpot as accompaniment to pork roast, or served after dinner with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

But until I sat down to share my rumpot recipe, I had no idea “rumtopf” was a Christmas tradition in Germany (ditto for Denmark).

Rumtopf (translation: rum pot) takes its name from the stoneware crock used to preserve summer’s sweet bounty: a custom that calls for macerating a variety of fruits, layered – as they come into season – with rum and sugar. It also requires the patience to wait while the fruit marinates through the fall months, stored in a cool, dark place, culminating with the popping of the “topf” for a Yuletide treat.

My rumpot recipe hails from Italy.

I spotted this boozy bonanza eons ago in “Italy: A Culinary Journey,” a coffee-table cookbook whose photos made me say, “Oooh! Let’s go to Italy!” At which point, my husband turned to me and said, “Absolutely. Meanwhile, why don’t you make that” – nodding at a photograph of a sun-dappled patio-table set with glass containers of frutta secca al rum – Ciao, rumpot!

The Italian-accented recipe calls for dried fruits rather than fresh and may be eaten shortly after it’s prepared: a process that involves the addition of fresh oranges, cloves and a cinnamon stick, a bit of cookery and a hefty measure of dark rum.

Feel free to alter the dried-fruit choices to suit your taste, and choose your poison. Mine (sorry, Ron) is Myer’s Original Dark Rum.

FRUTTA SECCA AL RUM (RUMPOT)

Fills a gallon jar

Juice and rind of 4 oranges

1¼ cups sugar

10 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

4 cups water

2½ cups (10 ounces) dried apricots

2½ cups (10 ounces) dried pears

2½ cups (10 ounces) dried peaches

2½ cups (10 ounces) dried apple rings

1½ cups (10 ounces) prunes

2 cups (10 ounces) golden raisins

2½ cups dark rum

Put the fresh orange juice, the (squeezed out) rinds, sugar, cloves and cinnamon with the water in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil until it reduces slightly. Discard the rind and the spices, and filter the liquid through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. Add the fruit and mix together.

Bring to a boil, cook for 8-10 minutes and set aside to cool. When the mixture is completely cooled, pour in the rum, mix well and refrigerate in a large, airtight jar.

Nancy’s note: If you store the rumpot for a couple months, the flavor will fully develop, but my jar never lasts that long!


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