Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fruit Compote

When they built their house on Beacon Avenue in Albany, Grandma and Grandpa VandenBergh planted a fruit orchard in the additional lot next to the house. They had a grape arbor with Concord grapes, three varieties of pears, two of apples, and two kinds of plums. Grandma often made stewed pears, using the recipe from her Dutch cookbook.

VandenBergh Family in the "Lower Lot" orchard 1937

With the variety of fruits available from their own fruit trees, perhaps she also made an assorted fruit compote like the one described on pages 168 and 169 of her cookbook, "Simple Hearty Fare."

Assorted Fruit Compote

- 100 grams (2/3 cup) dried plums (or 50 grams plums and 50 grams blue raisins)
- 100 grams (2/3 cup) dried apricots or prunes
- 100 grams yellow California pears or peaches (1 pear or peach)
- 50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar
- 5 grams (1 1/2 teaspoon) cornstarch (or other thickening agent)

Compote ingredients
As I had used up my pears in the last two recipes, I substituted an apple for the pear indicated in the book. I also tossed in a handful of dried currants left over from a previous culinary experiment.

The recipe instructs the cook to wash the various fruits in warm water and cut the pears and peaches in quarters. Set all the fruits in a pan with enough water to cover them. Simmer at low heat until done (about one hour). Sprinkle with sugar and thicken the juice with the cornstarch.

Simmer for about an hour

The recipe also suggests, "In place of the various assorted fruits purchased separately, one can also use 300 grams of 'tutti-frutti mixture' currently available in shops." You can probably find assorted dried fruits in today's supermarket as well.

I soaked the dried fruits in water for about an hour before cooking them. But I found that at least for the prunes, this was unnecessary, because they began to come apart and become too mushy after simmering for an additional hour. I also found that reducing the quantity of prunes would have improved the dish, as they tended to overpower the other more subtly flavored fruits. And it was unnecessary to add any sugar, as the dried fruits are already much sweeter than their fresh counterparts. Adding cornstarch or another thickening agent was also unnecessary, as the stewed fruits made their own syrup.

Fruit Compote
Served chilled, the compote was a refreshing fruity dessert on a warm evening, the first of many summer evenings. It will be fun to experiment with other varieties of fruit as they ripen throughout the season.

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