The long warm days and cool nights of May and June have made our fruiting trees and bushes flourish. Berry picking has become a daily pastime in our neighborhood. I just got a call from my neighbor that her sour cherry trees are laden with fruit needing to be picked, soon to be made into pies, tarts and liqueur soaked Maraschinos. Another neighbor has more strawberries than she can keep up with. The rush to get blueberries and raspberries picked before the birds eat them brings me out into the garden in my pajamas at 5:30 every morning. Soon we will be scavenging for wild blackberries along the railroad tracks, and peaches will be found on an old abandoned tree in the alley that runs between our houses. Bushels of apples and figs come in as the weather cools in September and October. Before the first frost all of the fruit laden potted citrus trees: Meyer lemons, kumquats, Key limes, oranges and Buddha’s hand come into the house where their fruit will ripen for picking in late winter and early spring. Almost every month of the year abundant amounts of fruit can be gleaned from these tiny urban gardens and their surroundings.
Aside from all the wonderful jams, jellies, chutneys, pies, tarts and liqueurs that can be made from this fruity abundance, one of my favorite concoctions to make is Tutti Frutti. When I was a child this magical elixir was always served with dessert after a weekend noonday meal. This was served to adults only, usually followed by a long nap. My grandmother and aunts spoke about it with reverence, in hushed tones.
There was a mystique about Tutti Frutti that I never understood until I found the recipe in an old letter. Having inherited the family Tutti Frutti crock I decided to make it. The delicious tastes and smells that evolved from that crock over the year of fermenting were indeed sublime.
Tutti Frutti is a highly alcoholic condiment that is traditionally served over Ice cream, pudding, Brulees or cakes. My favorite use for it is to strain off the fruit and use the delicious liquid for the base for a hot Tutti Frutti Toddy, my drink of choice on a cold winter night. Bottle the Tutti Frutti in December and you can give it as holiday gifts.
I am sharing this recipe with you in the hope that you will enjoy the year-long process of fermenting your own brandied fruits. Most of all I hope you will find it delicious.
- 1 qt good brandy
- 1 cup fruit chopped or thinly sliced- added monthly
- 1 cup sugar- added monthly
- 1 gallon fermenting crock
Starting in January (really you can start any time) add 1 cup of a seasonal fresh fruit, citrus is usually readily available in winter, 1 qt brandy and 1 cup of sugar to a crock. Stir with a wooden spoon until mixed and the sugar dissolves. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap secured with a rubber band, cover that with a nylon stocking. Store in a cool dark place.
Every month for 10 months open the crock, add 1 cup of fruit and one cup of sugar, give it a stir and seal it back up. Use only seasonal fresh fruit such as kumquats, pineapples, oranges, lemons, limes, nectarines, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, gooseberries, peaches, apples, grapes, figs, cranberries, pears and plums. Write down what fruit you have added each month so as not to repeat. Do not use bananas. Thinly slice and remove the seeds from citrus and grapes, cut other fruits into ½ inch pieces.
On the 11th month after starting this, stir in one cup of currants and one cup of raisins, but no sugar. On the 12th month, transfer into sterile pint jars, adding a sprinkling of pecans to each jar if you like. No need to water bath them, just screw on the lids and store in a dark cool place for up to 6 months, one year if kept refrigerated.
You can find berry bushes and fruit trees seasonally, as well as indoor citrus trees, fermenting crocks and canning jars year-round at most Fifth Season Gardening locations. Check your local store for availability.