Living Homegrown

- The Blog -

Live farm fresh

without the farm®

Preserve Like a Pro: Get my top sources for canning tools & supplies. (It’s free!)

Preserving Summer with Tutti-Frutti and Rumtopf

Okay -So this website is all about gardening and eating “fresh-from-the-garden” ingredients. Right? Well, here is a fun way to capture a bit of summer in a jar which combines the two concepts.


Have you ever made a rumtopf or tutti-frutti? A rumtopf is a tasty German concoction made with fresh fruit, sugar and rum. It is a preservation method in which fruit is fermented in alcohol and eaten later as a topping for various desserts. The word “rumtopf” literally means “rum pot” and although it is traditionally made with rum, you can substitute brandy if you prefer and still have delicious results. However, most recipes that use brandy call the concoction “tutti-frutti” rather than rumtopf.  But no matter which alcohol is used, the basic technique is the same.

I like to make the brandy version. I remember my mom making it each summer when I was growing up. It was like a special mystery concoction she had brewing in the kitchen. I helped her add the fruit and stir it, but I was never allowed to eat it – which made it even more mysterious! Later, as an adult, I made my own tutti-frutti and thought it was a fun way to collect summer flavors. I recently wrote an article for a newspaper on the subject and thought I would share some of the information here so you can start your own. It is a great way to preserve a bit of the summer!

A tutti-frutti is started at the beginning of the summer, with fruits added to the mixture as they come into season. The last addition is usually made in September at the end of peach season.  The trick to a successful tutti-frutti with brandy or a rumtopf with rum is to use an eclectic mixture of summer fruits, creating a blend of flavors. After the last addition, the entire mixture is set aside to mellow and age for several months. Of course, you can begin sampling the tutti-frutti/rumtopf whenever you like, but in Germany, it is not sampled until December on the first evening of advent. After that, it is fully consumed throughout the Christmas holidays .The spirited fruit is served over ice cream, pound cake, bread pudding and many other desserts. The sweet, fruity liquid can be enjoyed as an after dinner liqueur or mixed into cocktails.

Making tutti-frutti or rumtopf is actually a very old way of preserving summer fruit that originated in Germany and later spread to all European countries. It was brought to America by the colonists. Imported brandy, rum, homemade cider and homemade wines were plentiful commodities in most colonial households. Prior to the early 1800’s, food was preserved by salting, smoking, drying or fermenting. But alcohol, being an excellent preservative (in which mold and bacteria cannot survive) was a very convenient preservation method for fruit.

To make a tutti-frutti/rumtopf, you need a large glass or ceramic container that is about one gallon in size. There are specialty pots made specifically for this purpose, but really any glass or ceramic container with a tight fitting lid will work. Try a glass pickle jar or ceramic cookie jar, for example. (For an authentic, German rum pot, do a search on eBay.) If you have a jar, but no lid, just cover it with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and use a rubber band or a string to help keep the cover in place. It is also helpful (not mandatory) to have a small plate sitting directly on the fruit inside the jar to keep the fruit submerged in the alcohol.

The Recipe:
There are as many tutti-frutti and rumtopf recipes as there are cooks who make them. But most of them follow the same basic principles of combining fresh summer fruit with an equal amount of sugar. Using the fruit as it comes into season not only saves money, it also guarantees the flavors will be at their peak. Enough rum or brandy is added to the sugar/fruit mixture to keep the fruit completely submerged and free from spoilage. A small amount of spices or other flavorings can be added as well, such as cinnamon sticks, whole allspice, cloves or citrus peels.

Choose fruits that you enjoy and blend as you go, creating a unique recipe each time you make it. Strawberries, cherries, raspberries, peaches, apricots, pineapple, nectarines, red currents and plums all work well. Do not use watermelon or cantaloupe (too watery), blackberries (too seedy), bananas (too soft) or citrus (too acidic). Some people avoid dark fruits like blueberries because they will discolor the lighter fruits in the mixture, while others feel the discoloration is worth the added flavor. Personally, I enjoy cherries, peaches and apricots the most. But everyone has their own favorites in the mix.

No matter what fruits you use, they will need to be washed and dried and then hulled, pitted and/or de-stemmed before adding to the pot. Large fruit should be cut into smaller pieces. Measure the fruit after you have cleaned it and then add an equal quantity (cup for cup) of sugar. This is not an exact science, so you do not have to weigh the fruit. Place the fruit into your container and pour a nice rum or brandy over the top until the fruit is covered. Place on your lid and set the mixture aside in a cool place, out of direct sunlight. Stir the pot every few days to assure that the fruit is submerged and to help dissolve the sugar. Every few weeks, add another cup or two of fruit with a matching amount of sugar. Check out the local farmer’s market for the best selection of seasonal fruit. Continue until you reach the end of summer or the pot is full (whichever comes first).

Serving Suggestions:
Serve the tutti-frutti fruit with its syrup (hot or cold) over vanilla ice cream, cheesecake, flan, puddings, angel food cake or pound cake. For a nice syrupy sauce, dilute a bit of the strained liquid with water and thicken it with cornstarch. Drizzle the syrup over fresh fruit, waffles or pancakes. For an after dinner liqueur, strain the liquid and serve it straight up in a pretty glass. Or make an elegant cocktail, by adding two tablespoons of the tutti-frutti or rumtopf liquid to a glass of champagne.  You can also use the strained liquid as a basting sauce over ham or chicken. Start basting halfway through the cooking time and the sauce will caramelize creating a sweet coating over the meat. Rumtopf or tutti-frutti can also be ladled into jars and given as gifts for the holidays. Just attach a tag with serving suggestions.

Enjoy this post?

Sign up for updates & receive my free Canning Resource Guide

Preserve Like a Pro: Get my top sources for canning tools & supplies. (It’s free!)

About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy®. For 9 years, Theresa was the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.