What is compote?
A compote isn’t a jam, a jelly, or a marmalade. It isn’t a sauce, a condiment, or a snack.
Really, though, it’s all these things.
A compote is a fruit-based preparation of fresh or dried fruits simmered in liquid and often heightened with sweeteners and spices. The end result, depending on how much liquid is added and what type of fruit is used, can be anything from soft and mushy, like applesauce, to thick and chewy, like a pie filling. It’s a fantastic way to preserve fruits for weeks at a time, and an even more fantastic way to incorporate fruits into meals throughout the day. You can make a single batch of compote at the beginning of the week, and use if in several different applications in the following subsequent days.
Depending on what spices and flavor additive you call upon, a compote can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, from breakfast to dinner to dessert.
What’s in a compote?
Fruits. Without fruit, there is no compote. But you can use literally any fruit for your concoction. When using fresh fruits, cut them into larger pieces and simmer them in less liquid, as they will give off liquid and get a but mushy if overcooked. When using dried fruits (dried cherries, figs, and apricots are particularly good choices), simmer in a bit more liquid and for a slightly longer time, in order to break down the fruits and get a pleasing soft texture. Since the season is autumn, try out persimmons, pomegranate seeds, dried cherries, and pears together—pure fall passion.
Spices. Autumnal spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice all compliment the natural flavors of fruits very well, especially those with rich flavors like berries and plums and dried fruits like figs and dates. More delicate flavors, such as citrus peel, vanilla, and thyme, may be added for a lighter, more “spring” flavor, to complement fruits like pears, peaches, and apples.
Liquids. Generally speaking, you only need to use enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pot your fruits are cooking in, perhaps an inch deep of liquid most. You’re not making a soup here. Start with less liquid and just add more as needed to keep the bottom of the pot wet and the fruits cooking down, mashing occasionally to help the fruits release their natural juices as well. You can really use whatever liquid pairs well with your fruits: wines, fruit juices, citrus juices, or simple water sweetened with honey or maple syrup. Even a tablespoon of q fruit liqueur will bring out the depth of your other ingredients in any compote.
So you’ve made a compote. Now what?
Compotes are truly versatile. Try them:
• Smeared over warm scones with a dab of butter
• Spooned into yogurt for a healthy breakfast
• Layered with whipped cream and crushed cookies for a refreshing parfait
• Whipped into creme fraiche or whipped cream for instant fruit pudding
• Served warm over French toast and pancakes
• Spooned warm over roasted meats, especially beef, lamb, pork, and fatty fish
• Over crackers with Brie cheese
Ready to cook?
Here are a few great fall-inspired compote recipes to get your kitchen smelling of warm spices and sweet tasties. Now get to the farmers’ market, and get cooking!