Introduction: Preserving Fruit in Alcohol

I have a paranoia around canning.

Before you give me flack, I recognize it is a useful thing, and the following is just my opinion.

I never thought about it until recently, but botulism is a surefire way to die in any kind of situation where you can't rush to a hospital that may or may not have antitoxin. The use of jams, jellies, etc to preserve fruit sounds great, but you have to worry about acid levels and canning methods (water bath vs pressure). On top of that, you have to factor in elevation when canning, and constant sterilization steps and precautions. You have to ensure the lids seal correctly and they are generally not reusable (some are, which is a no-brainer, but I don't have any experience with them). So when I heard about something called Rumtopf, I was intrigued. I'm sure other cultures have something similar, but this is a German method of preserving fruit in alcohol throughout the summer, so it can be enjoyed during winter. As you will see in the steps, it involves layering fruit, sugar, and alcohol until everything is covered; simple as that. No exacting recipes. No acid, altitude, or time calculations. No sealing issues with lids. No spoilage. No Botulism. No worries. I do not drink alcohol for recreation, so I plan to cook it out when I consume the fruit in the winter. I understand that I can't physically cook out ALL the alcohol, but I plan to get as much out as possible. There will be more info (interesting data) on this later. If you worry about canning and the costs like me but want to preserve all the fruit your trees or bushes make every year, I'll show you how to preserve fruit in alcohol. Try this out!

Step 1: Prep

Set out the following items

  • Bowl: for discarding skins, pits, stems and leaves.
  • Knife: for preparing the fruit; I feel I must say BE CAUTIOUS WHEN USING SHARP KNIFES.
  • Pot of water: for quick boiling to soften peach or apricot skins.
  • Fruit: most any fruit will do; I have heard others that recommend avoiding watery fruits like watermelon and mushy ones like bananas. I am using peaches, apricots, plums, and mulberries.
  • Sugar: don't bother trying to use anything besides regular sugar. Anyone who can't have sugar shouldn't have fruit anyway, and the sugar helps prevent spoilage which the fake stuff won't do.
  • Vessel: you can use a ceramic crock, mason jar, or any other clean, non-porous jar. I used a cleaned out peanut butter jar.
  • Booze: the German Rumtopf uses rum, but I'm using Vodka. The liquid needs to be at least 80 proof (40%) alcohol, though some sources I have read recommend something on the stronger side (100 to 150 proof).

Clean your fruit, remove skins, pits, stems and leaves.

Clean and sterilize your vessel with bleach, Star-San, or by boiling. It's probably not absolutely necessary (because of the high alcohol %), but it can't hurt.

Step 2: Layer

Sugar. Fruit. Booze. Repeat.

It's that simple.

Fill the vessel up. Make sure everything is covered, and there are no air pockets. If you are layering per my instructions above, there won't be any.

Step 3: Wait

It takes time for the booze and fruit juices to mingle, so close it up and let it sit in a cool place. I put mine in the fridge. I have read that 4-6 months is the time it should sit to fully macerate.

Step 4: Eat

When the snow starts falling and you are craving something sweet, spoon some fruit out onto waffles or ice cream, use as pie filling, or just eat plain.

THAT'S IT.

If you don't drink alcohol, read on for my strategy.

I plan to cook whatever I eat thoroughly, for long enough (probably in a slow cooker), to get out most of the alcohol. In researching this goal, I came across some results from a study by the US Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data Laboratory. At this link, you can see the data, but a list is given below.

The text below is from a wikipedia article that references the other link I just gave, and summarizes what I wanted to know.

  • alcohol added to boiling liquid and removed from heat 85% alcohol retained
  • alcohol flamed 75% alcohol retained
  • no heat, stored overnight 70% alcohol retained
  • baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture 45% alcohol retained
  • baked/simmered, alcohol stirred into mixture: (see table)

Time (h) Alcohol retained

0.25 40%

0.57 35%

1.1 25%

1.6 20%

2.0 10%

2.6 5%

So the way I look at it, if the booze is 50% alcohol and it only makes up roughly half of the total fruit/booze mixture volume, then the total ABV is roughly 25%. If I cook it for 2 hours, then I'll only have 10% of the 25% left or 25% x 10% = 2.5%. That's less than half the % of most beers. Unless you are ultra sensitive, one or two beers won't do anything to you. If I cook it for 2.6 hours, the fruit mix will be 25% x 5% = 1.25% alcohol. Who is going to eat enough of their stored harvest to get buzzed off this, let alone drunk? Ain't gunna happen.

These are best guesses of course.

Lastly, the best part of this is that you get two products; preserved food, and fruit-flavored liquor (for gifting, or trading).

Good luck!

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