When I was a kid my mom used to make jam every summer. She didn’t cook a lot, but her jam was second to none. Perfectly sweet, not too chunky and we’d end up with a freezer full of it. Strawberry and raspberry were her go to’s with I think an occasional blackberry in the mix. She stopped when we got older and she got busier, and I started my search for the perfect store bought jam. Smuckers did it for a while, then I discovered Bonne Maman which I still buy (hipster tip: their jars can be recycled into to totally cool drinking glasses!), and most recently I discovered Crofters Organic, which I think is my favourite.
I don’t like jams that are too sweet, and won’t touch anything with aspartame, sucralose or other artificial sweeteners. And after a good friend of mine gave away homemade blackberry jam as her wedding favour last summer, saying how easy it was, I thought “there’s no way I’d ever be able to make jam”.
But compote isn’t jam. No no, it’s entirely different and very easy to make. It also can be stored for a long time without the use of pectin (a natural thickening agent), and requires much less sugar, making it a delicious healthy alternative to jam. Compote, as I recently learned is just cut fruit, a little bit of sugar and some water if needed for consistency. 15 minutes is all you really need and you can use whatever fruits you like or that are in season.
I recently made my first compote, a strawberry rhubarb one, adapted from Martha Stewart, in lieu of the pie I was craving. It’s perfect as a topping for my weekend waffles (with whipped cream of course!), it’s fantastic on plain yogurt, and I’m pretty sure it would be amazing on vanilla ice cream. The only problem is I wish I’d made way more.
Here’s what I used:
- 6 stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 1/2 cups of fresh strawberries, cut into fourths (small ones in half and large ones in eights)
- 2 inch piece of ginger, juiced (I used my garlic press, but I’m open to other ideas since I am sans juicer)
- 1/2 cup of sugar
Here’s what I did:
- Combine the fruit in a large mixing bowl and stir in the sugar
- Let the fruit sit on the counter for about 10 minutes, until the juices start to come out
- Put the fruit in a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer (add a little water if you need to)
- Let the fruit simmer at medium to low for about 6 minutes, until most of the fruit pieces have broken down, but some remain (be careful because this happens fast if you’re not paying attention)
- Take it off the heat, stir in the ginger juice and let it rest until cool enough to put in the fridge
With the ingredients I used I got about 4 cups of compote. You’ll use more compote than jam , because it’s less sweet, so it’s a totally manageable amount for two people to consume in a week’s time.
Next round I’m thinking of a blueberry rhubarb combo, with fresh thyme and lemon instead of ginger. I’m pretty sure all the berries will turn out a nice compote with the above recipe. Will definitely try an apple variety at some point, and can see this new found love for jammy type things inspiring me to try making my own pumpkin butter in the fall, so stay tuned! But in the meantime, if you need something to do with your summer fruit, or you just don’t feel like making a pie, try a compote!