The apple and pear harvest this year in my small, urban garden is like a treasure hunt, as the fruit is falling faster than I can pluck it from the trees. The ground it falls to is soft, and the fruit is in perfect condition after landing. So it stays that way, I have to get to it before the toothy creatures who also love its flavor do. I’m not sure who or what these creatures are, but they have no conscience – instead of eating the whole fruit, they bite a ring around each piece before moving on.
This causes little real pain, for perfect or imperfect the fruit all goes into my basket. Those with no blemishes we eat fresh and raw; the others I trim, rinse, and use in tarts or compote.
Today is a compote day, and into the pot goes pears and apples, and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. I cook the fruit with a vanilla bean until it is soft, then remove the bean and strain the fruit. I don’t add sugar because before I’m finished with the compote, it will have served a thousand purposes, and I want it pure.
I use the compote in a tart, covering the pastry with a thick layer before adding other fruit. It’s excellent under the skin of a chicken destined for roasting, blended with sautéed onions and served as a bed for a golden pork chops, sweetened with sugar and served, warm, for breakfast.
Those are just a few ideas for compote – you’ll think of many more, and I hope you’ll share your ideas with me.
Before I go, here are a couple of hints for making great compote: for apple compote, use at least two types of fruit – mine are Cox Orange Pippins and Reine de Reinette, both old-fashioned varieties loaded with perfume and flavor, and perfectly balanced between sweet and tart. If you’re blending, use about one-third pear to two-thirds apple for the ideal flavor and texture.
Whichever fruit you use, choose the best local varieties. Finally, while you may love chunky compote, try it pureed and, for an even more refined and satisfying result, strained. You’ll swoon.
Apple and Pear Compote
Compote de Pomme et Poire
2 pounds (1 kg) apples, peeled, cored, cut into chunks
1/4 cup (60ml) water
1 vanilla bean
1. Place all of the ingredients into a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. When the water begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook until the fruit is very soft, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring from time to time and lowering the heat under the pan if the compote begins to stick.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a sieve. Remove the vanilla bean, and push the mixture through a sieve. Alternatively, you can puree the mixture after removing the vanilla bean.
About 3 cups (750ml) compote