Skip to navigation | Skip to content | Skip to footer

Bachelor's jam

This is also known as officer's jam but it's really not a jam at all. The German name, Rumtopf, seems far more appropriate for what is actually a cocktail of rum-soaked fruit. The idea is that the mixture of fruit, alcohol and sugar is added to gradually, as different fruits ripen throughout the growing season. This preserve is usually prepared with Christmas in mind, when the potent fruity alcohol is drunk and the highly spirited fruit can be served on its own or with ice cream and puddings. It's not essential to use rum, by the way brandy, vodka or gin will work just as well.


You will need a large glazed stoneware or earthenware pot with a closely fitting lid, and a small plate, saucer or other flat object that will fit inside the pot and keep the fruit submerged.

Choose just-ripe fruits as they appear through the summer and autumn. We normally kick off the pot with some of the first small, sweet strawberries of the season.

Place these in the bottom of your pot or jar and, for every 500g fruit, sprinkle over 250g sugar.

Leave this for an hour or so then pour over about 1 litre of your chosen alcohol.

Place the saucer on top of the fruit to make sure the fruit remains immersed. Then cover the pot with cling film or plastic and, finally, a close-fitting lid.

Carry on like this throughout the summer and autumn, adding raspberries, cherries, peaches, plums, damsons, pears, grapes and blackberries as they come into season. (I avoid currants and gooseberries because their skins tend to toughen in the alcohol syrup, and I find rhubarb is too acid for the pot). Add the sugar each time too, and keep topping up the alcohol so that it always covers the fruit by about 2cm.

Do not stir the fruit at any point, just let it sit in its layers. When the pot is full to the brim, seal it tightly and leave for a couple of months before you start enjoying the contents. Just prior to using, dig deep and give the contents a good stir to combine all the scrumptious flavours. Use within 12 months.

P.S. If you're in a hurry, you can make bachelor's jam in one go in August, when lots of different fruits should be available. However, I do find it more fun to add the fruit over several months, whenever I have a surplus.

River Cottage Gifts - Shop Now


  • Fruit in season
  • 1-2 litres rum, brandy, vodka or gin (40 per cent)
  • Granulated sugar (250g to every 500g fruit)

This recipe is taken from...

River Cottage Preserves Handbook