Bachelor’s Jam: More About the Bachelor, Less About the Jam

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Sweet sips of summer
A bachelor and his “jam”

Growing up in the South, I harbor many colorful recollections, though sometimes I fear my imagination may have muddied the archival waters and created my own Glass Menagerie meets Fried Green Tomatoes meets Forrest Gump. It’s a reflective pastiche I have little inclination to correct.

As a nosey little nipper in Montgomery, Alabama, I remember the time a neighbor lady pronounced the status of a man she seemed deeply intrigued by. As she leaned in, drawing her cardigan tighter over her shoulders, she arched a barely discernable eyebrow, and feigned propriety to her friend by whispering with an inflection more deliberate than her own natural cadence, “Well you do know he’s a baaaaaaaaaaaa-chlar?”  There was more “baa” in that first syllable then in the wane of a lost lamb. I knew by the way she said it, something was up. Maybe he was a criminal, or spy, or who knows what, but something extraordinary for sure. Not the first time I had heard the term, but certainly the first time I had heard it used with such indulgent disfavor.

As a married Air Force fighter pilot, my Dad was beyond reproach, a family man and a tough act to follow. He loved structure, rules and integrity. Every once in awhile I would hear my parents talking about the wild antics of the bachelors in the squadron. Even as a schoolkid, I could tell, those said bachelors were all about fun. Most of them had sports cars; we drove a station wagon. Most of them drank a lot; my Dad never touched the stuff.

COPY CODE SNIPPET

And so with that memory, I bring you an extraordinary jam named after the extraordinary rogues, rakes and rascals it was no likely named for; ah yes, say hello to Bachelor’s Jam. Now, as I pointed out in the title, this recipe is more about the bachelor and less about the jam, for it is a boozy concoction worthy of the brazen brotherhood who thwart convention on many a southern cul de sac.

Not quite a pot of gold, but certainly a worthy elixir.

Bachelor’s jam is also known as Old Officer’s Jam, or Rumtopf, which is German for rum pot. And leave it to the French to provide a name as appealing as the drink: Confiture de Vieux Garçon.

Most recipes call for rum as the main, uh, preservative, but I prefer to use brandy. The choice is yours, experiment using your favorite liquor, just stick with high-proof libations like rum or brandy, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So what is Bachelor’s Jam? The jarred liquid gem is liquor-infused, sugar-soaked fruit cordial, plain and simple. What makes it exceptional is how and what you choose to prepare. For the most part, Bachelor’s Jam is meant to capture the best of orchard fruit at its peak. As fruits and berries become available, you add them to a crock of brandy (or rum) with sugar. And you continue to add more fruit, spirits and sugar as the harvest dates progress and until the vessel is full and topped with a lid for gentle aging and maceration.

Sweet sips of summer on an autumn day

So let’s say you start your Bachelor’s Jam in May by placing a layer of sweetened strawberries in the crock. After covering the fruit with brandy, cover the jar and wait until the next seasonal sweetiepie is ripe and ready to join the crock. Next up raspberries, and then cherries and then plums, and so on. You’ll end up with a delicious visual record of summer’s bounty and two offerings: a very drinkable sippable liqueur of sorts and a fruit compote that packs a punch.  And there is an actual recipe, simple and to the point, here it is:

Bachelor’s Jam | Rumtopf | Confiture de Vieux Garçon

Meal type Beverage
Bachelor's Jam (aka Officer's Jam, aka Rumtopf, aka Confiture de Vieux Garcon) is a wonderful layered mix of summer fruits, soaking up a blend o sugar and brandy (or rum). Makes for a delicious cordial.

Ingredients

  • Brandy or Rum
  • Seasonal fruit as it ripens
  • Sugar
  • Patience

Note

I'd stay away from some fruits that may overpower the mix making things bitter, sour, or overly diluted, such as gooseberries, rhubarb and melons, respectively.

Directions

Step 1
Use a large crock or preserving jar with lid to hold and store Bachelor's Jam.
Step 2
In a separate bowl, add seasonal fruit and sugar in a ratio of 2:1, e.g., 1 cup of fruit for every half cup of sugar. Let it rest overnight.
Step 3
Gently mix the the fruit and sugar slurry until combined and add to the crock one layer at a time. Pour in enough brandy or rum to keep the liquid one inch above the fruit. You may need to add a weight like a small plate to keep the fruit from floating up to the surface.
Step 4
Cover with lid and set in a dark place until the next fruit type becomes available.
Step 5
Say you started with 2 cups of strawberries than two weeks later raspberries are in season. Just repeat Step 3 using raspberries, and continue in the following weeks to add more fruit, say cherries, as they become available.
Step 6
Always add more brandy or rum to cover the sugared fruit.
Step 7
Add more sugared fruit and liquor in the weeks to come until you reach the top of the jar.
Step 8
If using a clear glass jar, cover it with paper bag to keep light out. The longer you let the "jam" sit, the better it will be. Wait at least three months before using.
Step 9
Sip the liquid like a cordial and use the booze-infused fruit as a compote, or ice cream topping, or in cakes, breads, or with cheeses and roasted meats.

I would also like to point out that the fruit does not retain its vibrant color, but loses structure slowly takes on the predominant hue of the darkest fruit. The spirited drink is delicious, and while not much to look at, the stewed fruit is just that — stewed. Drink too much and you’ll soon be sharing the same condition.

Yes, it has been know to put a smile on my face.
Buddy never touches the stuff; he feels the wood stove pretty much offers the same effect.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Good morning. This jam reminds me of the concoction I used to make to end up in the friendship cakes the Amish make, but, without the rum. I think if I put your jam in my cakes for Christmas I’ll have a lot more friends. LOL We moved from Louisiana to the Pacific Northwest and lived in Washington State for 20 years. I miss it so much. Now we live in Mississippi and I love it here too. Your posts and pictures always make me homesick for the mountains. Great recipe and I’m going to start the jam right away. Thanks for the recipe and tell the Cascades hey for me would ya. Have a wonderful day.

    • Thanks Pamela, what a perfect end product for the “sauced” fruit, in a cake or bread! The Cascades say hi, and the Olympics were asking, “Where’s our love?” 😉

  2. *Clink* To every eccentric, rara avis, misfit, maverick…particularly those who inspire such creations as these. Have you ever tried making a (pectin-ed and jarred) jam out of the sotted fruits? I’ve seen brandied jams and whiskeyed marmalades but don’t make a lot of jam and don’t know if there’s a particular weight of alcohol beyond which a jam will not set.

    • Anne, that’s a good question and one I shall investigate. I would think alcohol would have a determining effect on how a jam thickens. More later!

  3. We fondly remember visiting our Sister City friends in Soltau GY. Deiter pulled out his Mama’s rum pot and poured shots of this wonderful brew. Once one shot was finished Deiter would suggest we have a “cherry” or another fruit till we sampled all the fruits and more!!! rather sweet but a great cordial!!

    Hopefully we can share your concoction next August!!! Can’t wait to see you an d Buddy again

  4. Oh, does this bring back memories! My grandmother in Germany, who was born in 1909 and passed in 2001, made this every year that I can remember. Yes, it is called a Rum Topf (rum pot), and there are special big heavy ceramic crocs with heavy lids used to make it. She would put all the different fruit into the Topf layered, as it was available at the market. She started with strawberries in the summer and ended with pears in the late fall, and stored it under the kitchen cabinet, behind all the pots and pans, where she would leave it until Christmas time. We all knew it was back there, in the dark, doing it’s thing and turning into a delicious cordial. There is something very festive about the anticipation for the holidays.The fruit is delicious put on cake or ice cream or just eaten plane from a bowl. But, a word of caution, if you think that you will not get the effect of the alcohol in the fruit and eat a lot of the fruit in one sitting, you will get more drunk than you have probably been in your whole life! The alcohol gets concentrated inside of the fruit.
    Thanks for the great memory Tom, even though I now live on Bainbridge, far from Oma’s kitchen, I do miss my Oma every day…they don’t make ’em like that anymore. Two world wars, loss of her husband to the Third Reich, in a Russian work camp, and still thankful, loving her family , happy, fun and hard working everyday of her life…-and hands-down the best cook in the world.

    • Chris what a lovely tribute to your Oma, and what a life she led. My grandmother was of German descent and I felt the same way about her cooking. I had to laugh about your comment about the spirit concentration in the fruit. That is so true, and I had no idea. The cordial was smooth and easy sipping, then a bowl a fruit later, I was glad to be home on the sofa, and content to stay there.

    • The second I started reading this it had my Oma written all over it. This preserved/liquored fruit in cakes, over ice cream or floating in the New Years Eve punch! Brings back all good memories of going to my grandparents weekend shack in Germany to pick the fruit and the room in the basement where all the preserves and the wine were stored. There is an oft repeated story of a New Year’s Eve where three of the family youngsters got into the “bolle” and ate all the fruit that was left in the bottom of the punch bowl while no one was looking. The drunken tale that follows is hilarious. Thanks for this story.

      • Heide, I love your memory of this preserve. I had no idea the fruit packed such a wallop, and only discovered that after a hefty helping over ice cream. I would venture to say there is more residual alcohol in the fruit, than in the cordial itself.

  5. Love the story about the south as it’s where I’ve called home for 30 years now. However the NW called my son so I’m going to be lucky enough to see your area as well very soon again. Can’t wait to try your “jam”. I have a feeling this could become very popular with my Irish relatives!

  6. PS: my grandmother would also put a few millimeter layer of some type of alcohol, like Brandy, rum, bourbon or Kirschwasser, on top of any jam she made before she sealed it as extra protection against mold or spoilage. Plus it added delicious flavor to the jam in general.

  7. Oh the memories are coming back now! Another rum my grandmother often used, mostly a few drops in her afternoon tea, is an Austrian rum called Stroh Rum. It is a spiced rum that is 160 proof (!) and it is delicious when used in cooking jams or desserts and flambé dishes. It is such a high volume alcohol, that it might just cause blindness if chugged!

    • Hi Sue, thank you for checking in. How are those gorgeous grandkids and kids of yours doing? Let me know if you ever make it to Vashon. Take care, well wishes.

  8. Yes, can’t wait till next year! Thought about buying fruit but guess I’ll wait. Sounds like it would warm the cockles of our hearts.

  9. Hi, Tom,
    My memories are like Pamela’s. Mom used to make it in a rum pot and then pass a cup of it to each of her friends as a starter for their own batch. It was a lovely tradition. I also enjoyed your reminiscences about your father.

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