Food & Entertaining - Garden to Table

Savour the versatility of fruit compotes

By
Signe Langford
Photography by
Signe Langford

These sweet condiments have made the leap from desserts to entrées


Canadian summers may be fleeting, but each month brings with it an abundance of fresh and local fruits and berries. Tiny, ripe, lusty-red strawberries are our first indulgence. Then there are peaches, cherries, blueberries and grapes. And just as summer breathes one final sigh, pears then apples.

As dedicated Canadian foodies, we do our very best, eating as much of the sweet stuff as we can while it’s at it’s peak—raw and unadorned—pints of berries, baskets of peaches and bushels of apples. When we simply can’t keep up, we turn to freezing, canning, jam, chutney, pies and tarts to use every last, juicy morsel.

But don’t forget about dinner! The sweetness of fruit marries beautifully with the savoury richness of most meats, some veggies and many starches. Most of us have already tasted turkey with cranberry sauce or perhaps, rice with raisins, but there’s so much more tastiness to be discovered when pairing meat and fruit—and one of the best ways to experience this is with fruit compotes.

For the uninitiated, a compote is simply simmered fruit with the addition of a sweetener, traditionally sugar, (maple or honey is also wonderful), some sort of spirit, say port or brandy, and perhaps a few spices. Its origins have been traced back to 17th century France, where it was first consumed as a dessert. And a dessert compote is really stewed fruit with a bit of booze added—or not. It’s entirely up to you, but the addition of alcohol and sugar will extend the life of the compote, FYI.

Fast forward to today, where culinarily speaking, anything goes, and the dish is more likely to be served alongside duck or pork than over ice cream or vanilla custard.

 

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