Compotes are more commonly found in Europe than they are in the U.S. They are enjoyed especially in the cold weather months to accompany and balance heavy winter dishes. It is believed that compotes originated in France since “compote” means “mixture” in French. They originated around the Middle Ages. The compote is meant to be enjoyed immediately, although it can be refrigerated for a short time.
Compote, Coulis, and Chutney
Compote is made of whole fruits cut into chunks, then slowly cooked in water with sugar syrup, spices, vanilla, lemon or orange peel, nuts, and dried fruits. Fruit compote is often made from a combination of seasonal or frozen fruits. The most delicious fruit combinations are figs, apricots, pears, apples, plums, and berries. Out-of-season fruit can be substituted by dried fruits that are presoaked brandy or rum (if desired) to soften them up, which creates especially vibrant flavors. Compote needs to be cooked over low heat so the fruit stays mostly intact. It is not cooked down as jams or jellies. A pureed fruit mixture is known as a coulis. Compotes are similar to chutneys but sweeter in taste. Chutneys are part of Indian cuisine and also contain fruits (often mangos) but also vegetables, mostly onions, and are much spicier. They are also slow-cooked until all the ingredients have a very smooth texture. Chutneys are served fresh as a compliment to the main dish.
How to serve compote
Compote is often made and served warm immediately as a compliment to a meaty dish, but there are many ways to enjoy it. When refrigerated, compote can keep for a few days and can be served cold over ice cream or whipped cream, reheated, and served on pancakes or oatmeal.
Winter compotes taste especially delicious using citrus fruits. You can read more about different citrus fruit here. Citrus fruit needs to be “supremed” before cooking, which is a technique of cutting the pith and removing the membrane of each section of the citrus.
- Gather all ingredients.
- In a medium saucepan, add all pitted fresh and dried fruits and spices, such as clover, cardamom, ginger, anise, and cinnamon.
- Add enough water to just cover the fruit.
- Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
- Stir occasionally.
- Do not overcook.
Gather all ingredients: Spices of your liking, frozen fruits from the freezer, and dried fruits. This is a good recipe to use up all leftover ingredients you find in your freezer or pantry.
This is how to “supreme” an orange
Be careful not to overcook the fruit, or it will break down into a sauce.
Serve warm or refrigerate for a few days
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Simple Fruit: Seasonal Recipes for Baking, Poaching, Sautéing, and Roasting by Lauri Pfalzer and Charity Burggraaf