Brandied Dried-Fruit Compote

Look for plump, moist, high-quality dried fruit, which you are more likely to see at a farmers’ market than at a supermarket. With mediocre dried fruit, this compote may seem uninspired. You can use any dried fruit totaling about one pound, but aim for a pretty assortment of colors and shapes. I enjoy this compote with blue cheese or ricotta. Adapted from The Cheese Course by Janet Fletcher (Chronicle Books)

  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 7/8 cup sugar
  • One 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove
  • One 1-inch piece vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 ounces dried pear halves (about 6), halved lengthwise
  • 4 ounces dried plum halves (about 12)
  • 4 ounces dried cherries (about 30 large)
  • 3 ounces golden raisins (scant 1/2 cup)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons clear fruit brandy, such as pear brandy or kirsch
  • Lemon juice

In a stainless steel saucepan, combine the wine, water, sugar, cinnamon, clove, vanilla and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Poach each type of fruit separately as cooking times differ. Poach, covered, in the barely simmering syrup until the fruit is plump and tender but not mushy, then remove with a slotted spoon to a serving dish. Although cooking time will vary depending on the size and dryness of the fruit, pears, plums and cherries take about 15 minutes, raisins as little as 3 minutes. Remove the cinnamon, clove, vanilla and bay leaf after poaching the pears or the flavor will get too strong.

Cool the syrup, then stir in the fruit brandy. Taste and add a squeeze of lemon, if needed, to brighten the flavor. If the syrup seems too thick or intense, thin with water. Pour over the fruit.

Serves 6