Why It Works
- Peeling off the sharp edges of the sliced apples keeps the syrup bright and clear.
- Belgian candi sugar has a complex caramel flavor totally unlike that of American brown sugar, but darkly toasted sugar works just as well.
- Apple cider fortifies the flavor of the fruit and syrup.
- Gentle poaching keeps the apples tender rather than mushy.
- A subtle blend of aromatics helps intensify the apple aroma.
With carefully shaped slices of fruit and an aromatic poaching syrup flavored with caramel, cider, and spices, this old-fashioned apple compote proves that attention to detail can elevate even the humblest recipe into something wonderful. Serve it over thick slices of gingerbread, dishes of rice pudding, and scoops of cinnamon ice cream for dessert, or try it for breakfast with crispy yeast-raised waffles and French toast. Don't forget to save the poaching liquid—it's a fantastic swap for simple syrup in your favorite seasonal cocktails.
- 2 pounds assorted apples (about 4 large apples; 905g)
- 16 ounces apple cider (about 2 cups; 455g)
- 4 ounces Belgian candi sugar or darkly toasted sugar (about 1/2 cup; 115g); see note
- 1/2 ounce apple cider vinegar (about 1 tablespoon; 15g)
- 2 cinnamon sticks, preferably cassia
- 1 whole nutmeg seed, cut in half with a chef's knife
- 1 (1-inch) strip fresh ginger
- 1 (1-inch) strip lemon peel
- Pinch of salt
For the Compote: Peel, quarter, and core apples, then slice into 1/2-inch pieces. With a vegetable peeler, trim away the sharp edges of the fruit, leaving each piece with smooth, rounded edges.
Combine apple slices, cider, candi or toasted sugar, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, ginger, lemon peel, and salt in a 3-quart stainless steel saucier. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring from time to time, until apples are fork-tender, about 15 minutes. The exact timing can vary dramatically depending on the specifics of your stove, cooking vessel, and apple types, so pay more attention to the texture of the apples than to a specific timeline.
Transfer fruit to a serving dish, along with enough syrup to keep apple slices moist and well-sauced. Return aromatics to remaining syrup. Enjoy compote warm or at room temperature.
For the Syrup: Return syrup to a simmer and cook until reduced by one-third, about 5 minutes. Transfer syrup and aromatics to an airtight jar; use like simple syrup in your favorite cocktails and desserts.
3-quart stainless steel saucier
This recipe works best with the caramel notes of Belgian candi sugar or darkly toasted sugar, but if you'd prefer the tangy flavor of molasses, an equal amount of brown sugar or turbinado can be used instead.