The Finale: Plumtopf Rumtopf

Well we took long enough before our last addition in our mini rumtopf series. It wasn’t our intention to make this the only thing on Crustcrumbs over the past four months but here we are. We’ve been keeping extraordinarily busy over the summer and fall with barely a chance to catch our breath but thankfully, when these blue plums showed up at the market, I was able to focus my bleary-eyed attention over to them so we could put this rumtopf to rest.

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These late-summer plums found under the label of blue plums, prune plums and Italian plums, not only make a satisfying deep purple preserve after their skins have bled into their flesh and preserving liquid but they also make for the ideal fruit for the lazy preserver—such as myself—because their pits practically fall out after slicing them open.

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Our rumtopf is now full or our favourite summer fruits, drowning in overproof rum, and suspended in enough sugar to keep it preserved for the next 50 years—not that we’ll be keeping it around that long. Come Christmastime, when we decide to crack it open (and rest assured there will be photographic evidence) the fruit and liquor will make it into our trifle bowls and cocktail coupes. The important thing to remember will be that the mix of alcohol and sugar is sky high making whatever we use it in a deceptively evil dish that’s able to knockout anyone who dares to overindulge.

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Rumtopf Raspberries

Just a very quick note to add some raspberries into the rumtopf! The season is…well…over but add them in anyway, like we did. Their bright red colour is going to lend a rich deep red to our already crimson jar. Even in this late summer, visions of Christmas cocktails are starting to pop into our heads—we may have to crack this rumtopf open when we start planning to gather around the holiday punch bowl.

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We couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of these glowing berries on display at the farmer’s market.

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Witness Jen’s first styled shot for Crustcrumbs, as I worked on weighing out the sugar for the rumtopf.

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We’ll be back soon (sooner than the last time we did this) with one final addition into the rumtopf before we dress up for Halloween!

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Sour Cherries in the Rumtopf

It’s rumtopf time again and we’re so happy we have the privilege to add sour cherries to the jar. Bing cherries are nice and all—totally worthy of giving yourself cherry-belly over—but these tiny sour cherries are tart and taste like the “real” cherry flavour that was surely the muse for the likes of Lik-M-Aid and Twizzlers.
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Sour cherries preserved in rum is the simplest way to have a taste of their elusive flavour in the winter months but you shouldn’t stop there. These little orbs would also make darling Maraschino cherries, something I may have to try out before their cruelly short season is up. They could make amazing candied cherries too, something David Lebovitz has a recipe for in his book, Ready for Dessert. The syrup from those candied cherries is also pretty wonderful when paired with some bourbon. And while I’m recipe dropping over here, Nigella’s “Cloudy Lemonade for a Sunny Day” found in Nigella Express, with it’s whole puréed lemons, adds bitter lemon oils essential in lifting a bourbon-based lemonade, and can be over-the-top beach-ready if sweetened with that aforementioned sour cherry syrup.

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Now add those sour cherries to your rumtopf and let’s have a party!

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What’s in your Rumtopf?

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In our new mini-summer-series, we’re asking “What’s in your Rumtopf?”. A rumtopf, for those not in the know, is a straight forward summer-fruit preserve consisting of fruit, sugar and overproof rum. It’s an old tradition, with origins in Germany and naturally, variations abound. There are versions that use brown sugar and dark rum for added notes of treacle and caramel, where some opt for gin or brandy in place of rum to suit personal spirit preference. Almost any combination of fruit will work and indeed no combination at all—no one is going to balk at a rumtopf made up solely of sour cherries and brandy though maybe just don’t call it a rumtopf.

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Our rumtopf, apart from not using a proper rumtopf crock, will be retaining its rumtopf purity with a mixture of fruit as it comes into season, white granulated sugar, and overproof white rum. The proportion to keep in mind is that you’ll be adding half the weight of whatever fruit you add with sugar (500g of strawberries = 250g sugar). Top each addition with just enough spirit to cover. As another fruit comes along, add it in and repeat with sugar and rum. Make sure to wash and sterilize your rumtopf vessel before beginning.

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By the end of it, what you’re left with is some boozy preserved fruit in a homemade cordial. Preserving in alcohol may be the easiest method but it’s also one of the slowest, meaning this rumtopf won’t be ready until Christmastime, at which point the fruit can be eaten alongside cake or on top of ice cream and the cordial mixed into a cocktail or sipped straight up.

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So, what’s in our rumtopf this week?
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Jurassic Park (Hold on to Your Butts)

Last week Jen and I filled out a questionnaire for the Food Bloggers of Canada so they could feature us on their weekly Featured Member Blog series. It was fun talking about ourselves and our current thoughts on Crustcrumbs. One of the questions asked was “How did you decide on a name for your blog?” and though we answered truthfully, we did leave out many of the ideas from one of our brainstorming sessions. I was so hooked on the idea of coming up with a word or phrase that didn’t mean anything and didn’t really relate to food, I suggested jokingly, knowing Jen’s love for the movie Jurassic Park, we call the blog “Hold on to Your Butts”, in honour of everyone’s favourite Samuel L. Jackson line. Thankfully we didn’t go with that name but we did decide that come June, to mark the anniversary of the 1993 theatrical release, we’d do an homage to Jurassic Park.

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There’s plenty of eating that takes place in the film that goes beyond dinosaurs chomping down on terrified park guests. In a park that has “spared no expense” to provide its visitors with a spectacular experience there are several scenes where food helps to highlight the over-the-top extravagance the park has to offer. We see plates of Chilean seabass set down after a grisly velociraptor feeding scene, some ordinary pie topped with Newman’s own shaving cream, tub after tub of melting ice cream, exotic fruit and vegetable platters, a dessert table worthy of any 90s cruise ship, and of course, a shaky spoonful of lime Jell-O.

After much discussion we decided to recreate the dessert table because it would mean we could do some extra Jell-O eating shots after we were finished with the hard part. We knew one of the major details for adding depth to the shoot had to be the dinosaur mural that wraps around the dining room in the movie. Who else but Jen and I could have someone waiting in the wings that’s willing to paint us a dinosaur mural? Thankfully, our new semi-regular Crustcrumbs props contributor, Justine, was surprisingly into the idea and ready to help.
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The fun part of concocting this shoot was making up what type of desserts are in the screen grab—like creating some Jurassic Park foodie-fan fiction. We know from the dialogue that most of the park staff has deserted the island because of a tropical storm and judging by the melting ice cream and imperfect desserts left standing on the table, the pastry chef was first to board the boat. Initially, I counted five desserts and the tropical resort-style setting led me to believe that on that table in front of Timmy was a myriad of island flavours made for North American tastebuds. I determined that there must have been a Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Petals, an Apple Flan, a Coconut Mousse Tart with Toasted Meringue, a White Chocolate and Pear Cake with Strawberry Glaze, and a Banana Soufflé with Raspberries. Too late in the game, I checked my old VHS tape to re-watch the scene and found in the full screen version another dessert—what looks like a Mixed Fruit Tart. I asked Jen to check her Blu-ray and DVD versions but both are widescreen with that lonely dessert cut off at the bottom, leaving it to remain a special treat to anyone that watches the full screen version of the movie.140609 Barrie 0166
It seems this is the kind of thing we do in our spare time. The planning, crafting and shooting of it felt so ridiculous—in the best way—because here we are as a adults, spending our days off from our real jobs, making elaborate setups of food scenes from movies we liked growing up. Even better, we’re both able to file this under experience for our real jobs. I recently read a Vice article about that author’s obsession with watching Martin Scorsese’s Casino over and over for the clothes. The author speaks with the costume designer, Rita Ryack, and she said something I feel can also be true of food styling and photography, which is, “Costume design really has nothing to do with fashion. It’s creating a character; it’s storytelling.” I think Crustcrumbs is about telling a story through what we’re eating. Whether it’s something ordinary like Cottage Cheese Pie or something more elaborate like a sugary feast after a night spent being chased by a bunch of genetically cloned dinosaurs, the food helps to define whatever character we decide we want to act out that day. It may look at times like Crustcrumbs is having an identity crisis but that’s what makes it interesting for us, so you’d better “hold on to your butts”.

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Jen acting her butt off in her Jurassic Park wig.

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John refused to wear the wig.

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Dexter the studio puppy is a better actor than both of us.