Spiced Dried Fruit Compote

This spiced compote makes good use of dried fruits available year-round but is best (in my opinion) served during the winter and fall when spicier, deeper flavors are usually more prominent.   Besides, having dried fruit on hand in the pantry means you can put the compote together without much forethought.  I have been using it the past few years in my “Fall Bounty Brunch” cooking class where I  use  it as a brunch fruit side item.  It’s also a great “culinary chameleon”, changing its purpose based on your needs.    As is usually the case, upon preparing something and then tasting it repeatedly, my mind takes over and I can begin imagining multiple uses…heat it and serve it over vanilla ice cream (ooh, even better…rum raisin!) or pound cake for a quick and easy dessert, mix the plumped fruit with yogurt and granola for a fiber-rich quick breakfast, or strain out the fruit and arrange it on top of a frangipane (almond cream) tart.  The syrup itself can be re-used for multiple batches of fruit or as a sweetener for tea or spiced cider.

I’m sure you’ll come up with some favorite variations and multi-use purposes yourself.  If you do, please share them here!

Spiced Compote of Dried Fruit

This compote makes a nice winter fruit accompaniment for breakfast or side item for lunch or dinner.  It would be delicious as an accompaniment to baked ham or roasted pork loin.  If you can’t find the pouches of mixed dried fruit, just substitute any combination of dried apricots, prunes, apples, figs and peaches.

Yield:  8 Servings
3 cups water
2 cups sugar
2   ¼”-thick slices fresh ginger, crushed with the side of a chef’s knife
5 star anise, broken into smaller pieces
1 tablespoon mulling spices (or 1 teaspoon each whole cloves and whole allspice + 1 stick of cinnamon, broken)
1 orange
1 lemon
1 tablespoon Earl Grey tea (or 2 teabags)
2 7-oz pkgs. Sun Maid brand mixed dried fruit
Greek yogurt, for garnish
Ground nutmeg, for garnish

Combine water and sugar in a 3 quart saucepan.  Stir to dissolve sugar and place over medium heat.  Tie up the ginger, star anise, mulling spices and earl grey tea in a piece of cheesecloth and place in the saucepan with syrup.  Roll orange and lemon around to soften the pulp on the inside.  Cut the orange and lemon in half at the horizontal equator and squeeze the juice of both halves of each into the saucepan.  After squeezing, add the citrus shells to the saucepan as well.  Simmer gently for 15 minutes to infuse the flavor of the spices into the syrup.

Remove the cheesecloth and squeeze out dry.  Remove the citrus shells and discard.  Add dried fruit and heat just until it comes back to a simmer.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Serve warm or refrigerate for future use.

Serve as is, or strain and serve in a glass with a dollop of thick Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg.