Cooks who want to use up a bounty of fruit without spending hours in the kitchen will appreciate the simplicity and speed of homemade compote. Typically made of fruit such as apples or berries, compote is a versatile accompaniment to many dishes. With only a few ingredients, a pot and a stove, you can have a batch of compote ready in minutes.
Compote is similar to jam except that it doesn't use a firming agent such as pectin. In a basic compote, you cook fruit in a syrup made of water and some type of sweetener; the sweetener is most often sugar. For people watching their sugar intake, the amount of sugar used in compote is much less than that used in jams -- tablespoons, as opposed to cups. How sweet you make your compote is up to your own tastes. Depending on the fruit used and how soft you want the compote to be, cooking time ranges from only 5 to 20 minutes. As it cooks, you can add in flavorings, or you can leave the compote plain and simply enjoy the flavor of the fruit.
Simple Compote Recipe
To try your hand at a compote, start with a basic berry compote. You'll need a couple cups of washed berries, a couple tablespoons of sugar and a few tablespoons of water. You can use a single variety of berry or a mix of berries; strawberries should be hulled and halved or quartered. Place all of the ingredients in a medium-sized pot and bring the water to a boil. Stir gently as it heats, but not too much or you'll mash the fruit. Once the water boils, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow the compote to cool slightly before eating.
Beyond the Basics
Once you've mastered a basic compote, you can try other fruits such as apples, pears, plums, cherries or peaches. When cooking the fruit, allow it to simmer until the fruit is soft, but still retains its shape. When combining fruits, cook the harder fruits first, then add in softer fruits in the last few minutes of cooking. Flavoring your compote is another way to get creative with this simple dish. Vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, balsamic vinegar or mint all pair well with berries and stone fruit. Ginger, cinnamon, anise or liqueurs enhance apple and pear compotes.
Serving Your Compote
Compote tastes delicious straight from the jar, but save some to serve with other foods. You can use compote as a topping for cakes and ice cream or as a flavoring for plain yogurt. A sweet compote is a tasty complement to the savory flavor of pork or chicken as well.
Storing Your Compote
Whatever flavor of compote you make, it should be stored in the refrigerator in clean jars. Unlike jars of homemade jam, compote is made to be used within a couple weeks and cannot be stored on a pantry shelf. If you find yourself with too much compote, you can also store it in the freezer until you're ready to use it. When freezing compote, transfer it into plastic jars or bags; glass jars can burst when the compote freezes.
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