The Fruity German Jar That Acted as a Fridge; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS

Daily Mail (London), September 22, 2014 | Go to article overview

The Fruity German Jar That Acted as a Fridge; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS


Byline: Compiled by Charles Legge

QUESTION

I have a rumtopf made in West Germany. What should I do with it?

THE clue is in the name - rumtopf. Before fridges and freezers, it was important to find ways of preserving food for consumption in winter when fresh food wasn't available. There are many examples around the world - curing bacon and ham, hard cheeses, and clamping potatoes and hard fruits to see people through to the next growing season.

There's a delicious variation in Korea called kimchee, made by layering vegetables such as cabbage, radish, etc, with spices and chillies in a large lidded clay pot, which is sunk into the ground and acts like a fridge in the cold earth. The contents gently mature and are wonderfully edible.

So what about soft fruits? A common method is to make jams and preserves but the Germans came up with a deliciously enjoyable alternative - the rumtopf, a lidded earthenware pot 12-18ins tall. Soft fruits (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, plums, etc) are layered in the pot with sugar, as needed, and covered with rum to act as the preservative.

The rumtopf can be gradually filled over days or weeks and will last through the winter (well, it would if it wasn't so delicious).

My father served in the RAF in Germany, where we were introduced to the delights of the rumtopf - a portion of the fruit served with cream or, even better, ice cream. Ours never lasted through the winter - it was always well and truly consumed before Christmas.

Barry Evans, Worcester.

QUESTION

Why are there no All-Ireland football champions for 1888 listed on the GAA Roll of Honour?

THE semi-final and the final in the 1888 All-Ireland senior football championship were never played because the GAA had taken so many of its star football and hurling star players to the US. So no champions were listed for that year.

Set up in 1884, the GAA decided it wanted to revive the ancient Tailteann Games in Dublin in 1889. To achieve this aim, PS5,000 was needed and the GAA sent 50 top Gaelic players to the US, in what became known as 'the American invasion tour'. The Tailteann Games were very ancient; they started as funerary games during the Iron Age, in pre-Christian Ireland. Some historical sources reckon that the games were first staged as far back as 1829BC. The games developed into a festival of sport, as well as literary and music competitions. The last traditional Tailteann Games were held in 1169, under Rory O'Connor, the last High King of Ireland.

Setting sail for New York, the GAA group arrived there at the end of September 1888. After arriving, they visited Irish areas in nine cities in the north-eastern US, including New York, Boston and Philadelphia. But the trip was ill-fated. The weather was atrocious and then the GAA got caught up in a row between two rival US athletic bodies, which meant that the original aim of having top Irish athletes competing against the best in America didn't happen.

Low attendances and poor gate receipts were the result and instead of the trip raising PS5,000, it ended up with the GAA having to borrow PS450 from Michael Davitt, the man who had the original idea of reviving the games, to get most of the players home. A total of 17 decided not to return to Ireland and stayed behind in the US. But even though the trip was a financial disaster, it did help raise an awareness of Gaelic Games among Irish-Americans.

The other side effect of the American Invasion Tour of 1888 was that the All-Ireland senior football finals never took place. The provincial champions had been decided - Tipperary for Munster; Kilkenny for Leinster; and Monaghan for Ulster - but that was as far as the championship got that year.

It was a damaging blow for the four-year-old GAA, but fortunately, not a knock-out one. The organisation soon got over this embarrassing episode in its early history. …

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