Fruits in season are always best eaten fresh. However, when there’s such an abundance of them that you can’t consume them immediately, you can turn these seasonal fruits into jam. Or better still, into a fruit compote.
Unlike jam, a fruit compote contains whole or diced fruits. The fruits are cooked in sugar only until they are softened, and are not mashed into oblivion. In other words, the fruits are still recognizable and are not obscured by the sugar or any additional liquid.
Fruit compotes are also less sticky and are more fluid than jam. As such they’re easier to spread on bread, scones or muffins. Their consistency also makes them an ideal topping for ice cream and yogurt.
On a recent trip to the markets of Baguio, I found some mounds of freshly picked strawberries that looked sweet and juicy. Naturally I bought a few kilos. Back home I cooked them into a compote, making sure not to overcook them so the fruits retained their shape.
I also stirred the mixture constantly so it wouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. The result was a delicate confection of whole fruits that sparkled like rubies when spooned onto a plate. We’ve been having them for breakfast the past few days.
Some compotes may be cooked with spices or liqueur to enhance their taste. I prefer this quick and simple recipe that stews the fruit only in sugar. That way the flavors of the strawberries are well-preserved.
Homemade strawberry compote
4 c fresh strawberries
4 c white granulated sugar
Wash the strawberries well. Remove the stems and any white parts on the bottom. If the strawberries are large, slice them in halves. Keep the fruits whole if they’re small.
Combine the strawberries and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer. Cook over low heat while stirring frequently. Mixture will bubble so be careful while stirring.
Be sure the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan (that’s why you have to stir it frequently).
Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until strawberries are softened but still retain their shape. There should still be some liquid in the pan.
Transfer the mixture to a heat-proof bowl and let cool. Store in clean (preferably sterilized) jars. Serve as a spread for toast, muffins or scones. Makes about two cups.
Other serving suggestions:
Spoon compote over vanilla or chocolate ice cream.
Serve compote with whipped cream.
Use as a topping for yogurt.
Use the freshest fruits you can find.
If the strawberries are very sweet, you can use less sugar.