COOK: Spice-infused Fruit Compote
This week, local orchardist, Lisa, of Cody Orchards in Oregon, offered to deliver her organically grown apples and pears to local folks. I didn’t hesitate and asked my neighbors if they were interested. I sent our collective order over to Lisa and arranged to meet her in between snow storms. The fruit has been sitting in cold storage since autumn but it still managed to release their sweet scents, filling my car with a delightful aroma as I drove home from our pick-up spot.
Our orchards and our trees, in general, are on the front lines of climate change. While growing plants always has an array of surprises and challenges from Mother Nature, climate change has ramped it up. Late frosts, warming temps in mid-winter, early frosts, hail, drought and extreme heat are now becoming the new norms. Right now, Lisa should be pruning her orchard but our late and unusual mega-dumps of snow and layers of ice have made it too dangerous to do. Add to that the difficulty of finding seasonal employees who want to work outside and do physical labor and it makes you wonder why a daughter would take on her family’s orchard business as a professional and personal way of life. But thank goodness she has done so.
Rant done; on to the delicious recipe.
I purchased a mixed box of Pink Ladies and Fuji apples and Golden Russet Bosc and green & red Anjou pears. I don’t have a root cellar, so I stuffed the Boscs and some of the apples into the fruit bin of my refrigerator and moved the remaining fruit to an unheated bedroom that is currently hosting my fig tree.
Next, I perused my cookbook collection to look for fruit recipes. There were many recipes for pies, cakes and muffins - all of which I love...a bit too much. I then found a winter fruit compote recipe that would provide a base for my own creative input, avoided a large amount of sugar and could be eaten for breakfast, a snack or dessert. Simple but elegant, this easy to make recipe could be a beautiful finale to a meal: ladle fruit onto a simple almond cake and top with spiced whipped cream or yogurt. Then listen to the oohs and ahs as everyone enjoys a slice.
Fruit compote sounds so much better than cooked fruit, don’t you think? That’s because the word compote is French for ‘mixture’ and rooted in the word compost.
Wait...scratch that image.
Cooking fruit in a sweetened syrup is a centuries old dish, found in almost all cuisines. I dug around on the web and found many recipes for seasonal fruit compotes. Here’s mine.
Spice-infused Fruit Compote
½ cup honey
½ cup water
½ cup sweet vermouth, dessert wine or a sweet white wine
1 tablespoon peeled, chopped fresh ginger
4 cinnamon sticks or ½ cup cinnamon chips, lightly crushed by a knife blade or rolling pin (do not use ground cinnamon)
2 star anise
½ vanilla bean, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
1 teaspoon cardamom pods, lightly crushed
Combine all of the above ingredients in a large saucepan. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let steep overnight, leaving spices in.
The next day, strain the syrup and return to the pot.
(I reuse the spices to infuse a small jar of lightly spiced honey.)
Add to the syrup:
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup of dried fruit, cut into small pieces (I used plums and apricots)
Warm slowly on a low setting until dried fruit is rehydrated.
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
3 red Anjou pears, peeled and diced
1 cup of thawed or fresh cranberries
Stir until all fruit is coated with syrup. Cover and cook on low until the fruit is al dente. Do not over cook.
Store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.
WHAT TO DO WITH FRUIT COMPOTE
Breakfast topping: pancakes, waffles, scones, French toast, oatmeal
Appetizer: Serve with a cheese tray and savory crackers.
Snack: Layer with yogurt or custard
Dessert topping: ice cream, almond cookies, pound cake, on its own topped with spiced whipped cream
Author: Sue Kusch
Sue Kusch, a former community college instructor and academic advisor, incorporates her experiential wisdom, expertise and science-based research garnered from her three decades of growing vegetables, fruit and herbs into her educational writing about plants and how people use them. In addition to her BA in Social Sciences and Masters in Education, she completed the Master Gardener training in 2011 and two permaculture courses in 2001 and 2014. She has studied medicinal and nutritional uses of herbs including studies at Herbmentor.com and East West School of Planetary Herbology since 1997. Sue currently serves as President and newsletter editor of her local chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society. An avid gardener, herbalist, cook, reader, lover of historical and folkloric information, and a promising storyteller, Sue writes about the intersection of plants and people at www.plantsnpeople.com. You can find Sue’s work in at Herbmentor.com, Herbalremediesadvice.org, Green Living Journal PDX, and Herb Quarterly magazine.