One stand at the Kitchener Market had all sorts of fresh Ontario berries. I decided now was the time to try making Alabama Fruit Salad even though it really needs to sit for a while before tasting. It is designed to be made in a series of steps over several weeks but my home was just too chaotic earlier to try the recipe. I was able to buy everbearing local strawberries, local red currants and the cherries were from BC rather than Ontario. The recipe in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book was contributed by Miss. Hilda Eisenbach. I find the recipe name interesting since I think this is usually called Rumtopf or Rum Pot — various fruits soaked in alcohol over an extended period of time. Considering Miss Eisenbach is likely of German heritage and rumtopf is a German tradition I’m very surprised by the recipe title. This cook book incorporates several recipes with German titles. The other amazing thing is its inclusion in the salad section of the cook book rather than the dessert area. This is my first experience with a salad of alcohol soaked fruit!
For the sake of economy and space, I decided to make half the recipe. I washed and then hulled 3 cups of strawberries. I decided not to cut them but leave them whole. I washed and stemmed 3 cups of sweet cherries. I didn’t pit them but left them whole. I purchased a cored pineapple at the store and tried to cut it in thin slices. I washed and tailed 2 cups of red currants. I added the strawberries and 3 cups of sugar to a jar. Next it was the cherries and 3 cups of sugar. The 3 cups of pineapple was the next layer along with another 3 cups of sugar. The last layer was the 2 cups of currants and 2 cups of sugar. Finally I added a cup of dark rum and tried to stir. I imagine over time the sugar will liquify and mingle with the juices of the fruit and the rum. Finding and adding salicylic acid is a challenge. This is basically aspirin. It is found naturally in some foods and a food grade quality is available. I’m hoping to locate some at a drug store to add later to the mixture but I warn people with allergies to aspirin not to add this final ingredient. I imagine it is used as a preservative.
Miss Hilda Eisenach is another of the mystery women. I always think that having a woman’s full name is going to make her easier to find but often it is more difficult. I keep referring to them as the invisible women. One of the things I like about the Berlin Cook Book is that at least for this brief moment in time these women are visible. They probably contributed quietly in many ways to their families and communities but with this cook book they become part of history.
I tasted one bit of each fruit along with a smidgen of sugary alcohol. Each fruit tasted good on its own and they combine nicely. At this point the Alabama Fruit Salad is just some fruit in alcohol and sugar but my experience with Rumtopf many years ago suggests that the flavour will become much more intense as time goes on. I’ll report back in the fall to let you know how it is progressing. This is the moment to try making some in whatever proportion suits your household. The recipe below has some serving suggestions and in the past I had rumtopf with cake and with ice cream.
ALABAMA FRUIT SALAD
6 cups strawberries, 6 cups cherries, 6 cups fine sliced pineapple, 4 cups well ripened currants, 1 pint of best alcohol, 1 teaspoonful of salicylic acid; put in two gallon jars, take a cup of sugar to each cup of fruit; fruit in, put in as it comes in season, stir well and keep tied shut good; serve with chopped nuts and whipped cream, sliced oranges and bananas can be added. All fruit keeps it flavor and can be kept till the next fruit season.