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.
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.
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.
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
- Brandy or Rum
- Seasonal fruit as it ripens
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.
|Use a large crock or preserving jar with lid to hold and store Bachelor's Jam.
|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.
|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.
|Cover with lid and set in a dark place until the next fruit type becomes available.
|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.
|Always add more brandy or rum to cover the sugared fruit.
|Add more sugared fruit and liquor in the weeks to come until you reach the top of the jar.
|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.
|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.