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A Gift from your Kitchen: Boozy Fruit

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

When I was 24 and living in New York City, my friend Ruth gave me a jar of rumtopf at Christmas. I had never tasted anything so delightfully ambrosial and I asked for the recipe.

Rumtopf is a German way of preserving fresh fruit with sugar and rum that macerates over months. When I tried it, my fruit spoiled and I was so disappointed, I never made it again. It wasn’t the recipe—I was an inexperienced cook and I surely did something wrong.

Still, fruit and alcohol go well together for the holidays, and this Christmas, looking for an easy hostess gift, I thought about another boozy combination: dried plums and brandy. When I worked for the PR agency that represented the California Dried Plum Board years ago, we developed several recipes that combined dried plums with Armagnac, a classic French pairing.

I found this recipe on the California Dried Plum Board website. It may not be the one we developed back then, but it tastes quite the same. It’s quick, easy and foolproof. And no spoiled fruit!

Brandied Dried Plums with Orange Zest
4 cups (about 24 ounces) pitted dried plums
2 ½ cups Armagnac
2 cups strong brewed black tea
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped orange zest (see note)
4 cinnamon sticks
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

In medium bowl, combine dried plums and Armagnac; set aside. Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, bring tea and sugar to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in dried plum mixture, orange zest, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Remove from heat; cool 20 minutes, uncovered.

Spoon into jars with lids for gift-giving. Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 1 month. Remove cinnamon sticks before serving.

Serve warm, spooned over vanilla ice cream, if desired. Can also be served warm in individual dessert dishes, topped with whipped cream and crumbled macaroons or gingersnap cookies. Makes 6 cups.


  • Armagnac is an aged French brandy; other brandies may also be used. When using other brandies, increase to 3 cups; decrease tea to 1 1/2 cups.
  • To brew strong tea, use 2 standard-size tea bags per 2 cups boiling water.
  • For orange zest, use zester or vegetable peeler to remove orange portion only from orange; chop finely. Grated orange peel may be substituted for orange zest; decrease to 1 tablespoon. (Note: Instead of finely chopping the zest, I cut mine in thin strips.)

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