Rum Pot Diary

Today’s entry is not about writing or publishing, but it’s another recipe (I like to cook! Have I mentioned that before?), and it allows me to use the concept of keeping a diary as a metaphor. It also produces an extreme sort of comfort food which seems apropos for this particular year.  I decided to start a rum pot (rumtopf in German), which is basically preserving fruit in alcohol. Each month I plan to add a layer of some kind of fruit, but special fruit, something with some kind of significance. Come summer, I’ll have my currants, blackberries and gooseberries from the backyard garden, as well as bounty from the farms around town, but getting started takes some imagination. So January’s fruit is the nectarine—beautiful blushing white nectarines from Chile, purchased from the health-food supermarket which assures me they have not been sprayed with who-knows what kind of chemicals. I picked them because I was remembering a long-ago coworker from Chile, Carmen, who was such fun to work with, and would bring in treats like dulce de leche candies. After returning from a trip home, she brought me back a pair of lovely blue-gold lapis-luzuli earrings (Lapis being a mineral which is found there in the Andes) which I have to this day. I believe she went back there to retire. Hola, Carmen!

So here is the process: You need a ceramic crock, about 2 gallons in capacity, to store it all. With a lid. A pound of fruit, which sounds like a lot but isn’t really: It came out to about 4 nectarines peeled and pitted. Stone fruits are best, as well as cherries and berries, but I’m told you can use apples and pears in the fall. Or dried fruit, if nothing else is available. Then sugar, plain old white cane sugar: It’s two parts fruit to one part sugar, so half a pound of sugar (about a full cup) per pound of fruit. Peel, pit or de-seed the fruit and chop it into chunks, drop it into the crock, add the sugar, stir and then…comes the expensive part.

Cover the whole thing with the cheapest rum or brandy you can find.  It needs to completely cover the fruit, so you may need a standard-sized bottle. Don’t use the good stuff; get over to Buy-Rite or whatever your discount liquor store is and look at the bottom shelf. I decided to use brandy instead of rum because that’s what I prefer, and was delighted to find a bottle of Christian Brothers manufactured in Bardstown, Kentucky…just a stone’s throw from Gethsemani Abbey, where I went on retreat last year. So pour in the liquor and make sure it really covers the fruit. To make sure it didn’t come bobbing up out of the sauce to spoil, I put a small ceramic plate on top of it to weigh it all down. Then the lid of the crock. Now to wait until next month and figure out what February’s “entry” should be.  I’m thinking some kind of Southern Hemisphere cherry, for Valentines Day. And if anyone goes to Hawaii, they must bring me back a pineapple…

I’m going to try and refrain from dipping into it until the holiday season next December. Only then, do I feel, will it be complete, like a book, a year of splendid fruit and memory. But if you can’t wait, it generally takes about six weeks for the fruit to “cook.” So you can have some  for Easter.

Update on my book: Wives of the Saints is a debutante this week, being officially introduced to the world via Publisher’s Weekly’s Jan. 23rd issue—just a listing and photo, not a review which I’m crossing my fingers for (It is being considered, however, just got the confirming email) And Big Daddy Amazon rewarded my return to Select status by bumping up my book’s ebook ranking by an astonishing 900,000 without a single sale. So I’m in six figures instead of seven—Yay!  Am running an interesting ad campaign there which is based on clicks per keyword, which I don’t quite understand but…The most popular keywords seem to be ‘husband,’ ‘wife,’ ‘best friends.’ Making a surprise showing: ‘Catholic fiction.’ Who knew?!

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