Bright with the flavors of berries and stonefruit, Old Bachelor’s Jam is like summer in a bottle. This old-world, fruit-infused liqueur is one of the easiest recipes you can make. When the cold of winter sets in, opening up a bottle of this sweet, fruity liqueur brings back all the memories and flavors of summer.
What is it?
Bachelor’s jam is an old-world liqueur made by soaking summer fruit in brandy and sugar. As cherries, berries, peaches, and plums steep in the brandy over several months, they infuse the brandy with their flavor. The result is a sweet, fruit-forward liqueur that’s equally delicious served on the rocks as it is spooned over ice cream.
More a technique than a recipe, bachelor’s jam is rooted in old French food preservation. In France, the drink is known as Liqueur de View Garçon. Before the advent of refrigeration, people relied on other food preservation techniques that don’t require cold temperatures.
Think about how you might use salt to ferment vegetables, sugar to make jam, or vinegar to make pickles. One popular method was to soak the fruit in hard alcohol, such as brandy, vodka, or rum.
It’s how thrifty cooks made classics such as brandied cherries and noyaux. And bachelor’s jam is just a riff on that same concept.
What’s in it?
Bachelor’s jam contains three basic ingredients: fruit, sugar, and hard alcohol. You can use just about any summer fruit you like. Berries and stonefruit are particularly good options, and some of the best jam is made by adding fruit to the pot as it comes into season.
- Summer fruit is the heart of Bachelor’s Jam. Add fruit to your crock as it comes into season – strawberries in early summer. Cherries and apricots come next followed by peaches, plums, blackberries, and other fruits of late summer.
- Brandy is the hard liquor added to most recipes. It offers a sweet, apple-like flavor that works well with fruit. You can also use other hard liquors as it suits you and both vodka and rum often make an appearance in similar recipes.
- Sugar sweetens the liqueur and also helps to preserve the fruit for long-term storage. Cane sugar is traditionally used, but you can use palm sugar, maple syrup, or even honey if you prefer.
Tips for Making Bachelor’s Jam
Making Bachelor’s Jam is effortless. The idea behind the recipe is that it’s so easy that an old bachelor (presumably with little kitchen skill) would have no trouble making it.
You begin by layering fresh fruit with sugar and then covering it with brandy. As summer would wear on, you’d add new layers of fruit, sugar, and brandy. Letting the fruit infuse into the sugar-sweetened brandy over several months gives the liqueur the best flavor, and the drink often wasn’t opened again until winter set in.
To make Bachelor’s Jam requires an element of flexibility. You use what’s in season and keep the pot going until winter. While it’s one of the easiest liqueurs you can make at home, there are a few tips you’ll want to keep in mind.
- Embrace flexibility. As long as your fruit is submerged in enough vodka or brandy, it should keep fine. So keep a little room in your jar to add a few new pieces of fruit as they come into season.
- Use ripe, good-tasting fruit. Your liqueur will only taste as good as what you put into it. So use ripe, sweet, flavorful fruit. Use fruit free from soft spots, and avoid fruit that teeters toward over-ripe or spoiled.
- If the fruit floats to the surface, consider weighing it down with glass fermentation weights so that it stays submerged in the alcohol.
- Use a non-reactive lid when sealing the jar. Metal lids may corrode when exposed to alcohol, so use a plastic or other non-reactive lid. If you only have metal lids, line them with a square of wax paper to prevent corrosion.
- Have patience. While you can technically serve the drink just about anytime, wait at least 3 months before trying it for the best flavor. Traditionally, the crock was often opened and the liqueur was shared around Christmastime.
Bachelor’s Jam Recipe
Originally, Bachelor’s Jam was made in huge quantities and added to throughout the summer season. For this scaled-down version, you can make it all at once and tuck it in the cupboard until winter. This recipe makes about a quart, which is usually sufficient for most families, but you can easily double or triple the recipe if you wish to make more or share it with friends.
Servings: 16 servings (1 quart)
- ¾ pound mixed summer fruit (berries, cherries, peaches, plums, etc.)
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¾ cup brandy (plus additional, if needed)
Remove the pits from any stone fruit, and chop large fruits into bite-sized pieces. Berries should be firm, and you can leave them whole.
Arrange the prepared fruit in the bottom of a quart-sized jar, and then sprinkle the sugar over it. Pour in the brandy, adding more brandy to submerge the fruit by 1 inch if necessary. If your fruit floats to the surface of the jar, weigh the it down with a small saucer or glass weight, and seal the jar with a nonreactive lid.
Transfer the jam to a cupboard and keep away from light and heat for at least 3 months. Store in a dark cupboard at room temperature for up to 1 year.
Rumtopf is a German-style recipe made in a similar style to Bachelor’s Jam. Instead of using brandy, try rum.
Add herbs and spices such as vanilla bean, cardamom, star anise, mint, lemon verbena, or just about anything you happen to like the flavor of. Go light, because alcohol is very effective at extracting the flavor of herbs and spices and too much may overpower the fruit.
Try vodka for a more neutral-flavored jam. While Bachelor’s Jam traditionally uses brandy, vodka may offer a more neutral flavor that allows the individual flavors of the fruit to come through.
Use a single fruit instead of a mix. You can use the same principle and basic technique to make berry, peach, and cherry liqueurs. Just about anything you can think of.
Bachelor’s Jam is intensely boozy, and the alcohol is used to preserve the fruit. If you avoid alcohol, you can try making a shrub instead. Shrubs are made by soaking fruit and herbs with vinegar and sugar.
Yes. Liqueurs such as Bachelor’s Jam are intended to taste sweet, with a syrupy consistency. Sugar is the most affordable option; however, some people use other natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey, or palm sugar.
If you’re avoiding sugar, and want an alternative to Bachelor’s Jam, try making fruit-infused vodka or brandy instead.
Bachelor’s Jam keeps indefinitely, but it’s best used within a year.
Try pouring the liqueur over ice or stirring it into cocktails and winter punches. You can also drizzle the liqueur and spoon the fruit over ice cream or custards.