Wintertime in (this part of) rural France is marked by many things: coats and gloves, but more importantly scarves; apéros in more often than nights out; alternating wind and rain and snow; and food…lots of food. France is a foodie country…I know – lots of countries can make that claim, but a few are just a little more so than others. Ethiopia, Italy, China, Morocco, Mexico…these are countries known for their food. France is right up there.
As a vegan there are, of course, all sorts of French nibbles in which I happily do not partake. But there are two staples in near enough everybody’s fridge and freezer I could eat year-round if they’d let me: soupe and compote. Now I realize that I could have spelled soup without an “e” and left the italics off it, but la soupe of which I speak is not something eaten by the average anybody-else, and it is eaten with a nearly religious reverence – it’s not quite borscht (borsch?), but almost. Incidentally, there are those here who fervently hate la soupe. Chris is one of them.
But la soupe is for another post. Chris is coming back tomorrow. And he does not hate la compote. In fact, he’s usually (read: always) the one to make it. I tried once. It was going to be wonderful. The apples were soft, but I was off to lunch at the in-laws. I turned off the stove – swear I did – and came back a couple hours later to find the flat filled with smoke, my compote, and my – ahem – our Le Creuset pot ruined. A scary, bad afternoon, that was. But apples were 1€/kilo at the market last weekend, so I thought I’d give it another go.
This isn’t, ladies and gentlemen, your ordinary ol’ apple sauce – non! Because you make it at home. Because it’s hot before it’s cold. Because you literally put sugar and spice into the pot. This is compote. I had no idea what I was doing in terms of quantities or timing, but it turned out perfect. Which leads me to believe it might be pretty hard to mess it up.
Makes 2 big mason jars’ worth.
- 7-8 really big apples, or the equivalent thereof…I had about 2.5 kilos.
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 sticks cinnamon bark
- 2 heaping tbsp raw sugar
I would have taken more pictures, but I have no idea what Chris did with the battery for the camera, and I was far too lazy to go looking for it. Gonna hafta trust me on this one – it’s dead easy.
Peel the apples, cut out their cores and chop them roughly. Stick them in a really big pot, like the one I used to make ratatouille that one time. Sprinkle the vanilla and sugar over the top, drop in the cinnamon bark, and add 1 cup of water.
(If you’ve never made compote, it might seem like you should put more water in. Don’t. This will cause your loved ones to moan about how liquide your compote is, and how you shouldn’t have added so much water. If you drain the water at the end, out goes all the lovely apple flavor. You could, of course, add more sugar, but that’s no good. Just don’t put too much water in. Sorted.)
Turn the heat on just above medium, and leave it to simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring about every 5 minutes, until the apples are mushy. Take it off the heat, remove the cinnamon and mash it like potatoes. You can also stick it in a blender if you like it puréed, Mott’s style. I like the chunky kind.
Leave it to cool, then stick it into a couple of jars. If you live with Chris, that will last a week. If it will last you longer than that, stick one of the jars in the freezer, just remember not to fill it to the top or my father-in-law will come knocking on your door when the mason jar cracks to tell you that he told you so.