Kompot (English: compote) is a non-alcoholic sweet beverage that may be served both hot or cold. It depends on the tradition and season. The fruits that are usually used for the preparation include strawberries, apricots, peaches, apples, raspberries, rhubarb, plums, and sour cherries. They are cooked in a large volume of water, often together with sugar or raisins to sweeten the drink. Sometimes different spices such as vanilla or cinnamon are added in order to enhance the flavor. Adding these is particularly popular in winter when kompot is served hot.
Kompot is a part of the culinary cultures of many countries in Central, Eastern, Southern Europe and the Middle East. It is very popular in Poland, and Ukraine, in the latter one it is known as uzvar. Other countries where this delicious drink is well-known include the Czech Republic, Russia, Bulgaria, Armenia, Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Moldova and Romania, Austria, Greece, Georgia, Cyprus and Turkey.
Why on earth would anyone cook fruits?
Kompot used to be a widely used way of preserving fruit for the winter season in the Southern and Eastern European countries. In 1885, in a recipe book by Lucyna Ćwierczakiewiczowa you can find the praise for the kompot, which supposedly preserved fruit so well it seemed fresh. In the 1970s, the kompot was still widely popular. It is also famous in some Central Asian countries, such as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The compote conformed to the medieval belief that fruit cooked in sugar syrup balanced the effects of humidity on the body. The word compote comes from French and means mixture. The name derives from the Latin word compositus.
How it all began
In the late medieval England, it was served at the beginning of the last course of a feast, or sometimes the second out of three courses, frequently accompanied by a creamy potage (thick creamy soup).
During the Renaissance, people would serve chilled compote at the end of dinner. Because compote was easy to prepare, made from fairly cheap ingredients and contained no dairy products, it also became a staple of Jewish households throughout Europe.
In modern French, the term refers to either sweetened or unsweetened fruit purée without fruit chunks, such as applesauce, resembling fruit stew. As a dessert, compote originated in the 17th century France. The French also believed that fruit cooked in sugar syrup had influence on the humidity’s effects on the body, which led to this invention. The whole fruits are often cooked in water with added sugar and spices.
Since the 80s, the consumption of compote has been declining. With the end of food preservation in many countries of South and Eastern Europe, the drink version of compote has been replaced by fruit juice, various soft drinks and mineral water.
Kompot z suszu for Christmas in Poland
Kompot z suszu (English: dried fruit compote) is traditionally served as part of the Christmas Eve dinner in Poland. This delicious beverage has rich, citrussy flavor, with hints of cinnamon and cloves. The Polish Christmas fruit drink usually contains dried apples, pears, and prunes, and a variety of spices. Occasionally, smoked fruit is used as well.
The best to prepare it is by brewing this fragrant Polish-style dried fruit compote. It is a magnificent drink for a festive celebrations. Its aroma is a signature smell of Christmas, it is sweet, musky, woody, and a little bit smoky all at the same time.
Dried fruits were considered as a very crucial ingredient in the old-Polish cuisine. After all, drying and smoking was a perfect way of preserving the autumn harvest to last throughout the winter seasin. These fruits were later used in soups, desserts, stews, and sauces.
Interestingly, the words kompot and compote are used in drug culture slang in Polish and signifies a crude preparation of heroin made from poppy straw.
Recipe for the Christmas dried fruit compote
- 800 g of dried fruits (prunes, apricots, figs, apples, peaches, pears, berries)
- 8 cups of water
- 8 cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- Place dried fruit, water, cloves, cinnamon sticks, lemon zest and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.
- Reduce the heat and simmer with a lid on. It should take about 20 minutes or until fruits have become tender and syrup has thickened slightly.
- If you want to achieve more of a liquid consistency, add more water. For a thicker compote, continue simmering to reduce the liquid further.
- Serve hot.
Depending on the kinds of fruit you choose, you can pick various complementary spices and additives, such as vanilla, orange peel, ground almonds, grated coconut, or raisins.