I don’t know how many people grew up with fruit compote as a staple of their diet. My grandparents made it throughout the summer to preserve fruit for the winter months. My grandmother’s apricot compote was so good I still dream about it on occasion.
Unfortunately, like most of my grandmother’s recipes, the success of this concoction required her presence and direct involvement and I could never replicate it, no matter how many times she shared it with me. The fruit delicacy had a lot more sugar than I was used to, contained all the apricot kernels (the nutty seeds are a yummy snack in and of themselves, they taste like slightly bitter almonds and no, they won’t kill you) and glorious vanilla beans.
She boiled the cut up fruit with lemon peel, vanilla (always the beans, never the extract) and sugar until the mix got syrupy, the thicker the syrup, the longer the compote lasts. She blanched the kernels to ease removing their bitter skins and added them to the boiling syrup to get them soft and sweet and fragrant with vanilla.
To obtain brilliant jewel colors for the syrup the fruit and its peels were boiled separately, then the peels were strained and the halved and pitted fruit was added back to the syrup with a tablespoon of lemon juice to enhance both color and flavor. The halved apricots stayed whole and crisp in the amber syrup, embellished by the softened bitter sweet kernels and the twisty vanilla rods.
Like with all fruit preserves, the reward of doting on a boiling sugary mix over a hot stove is the aroma in your kitchen: vanilla, lemon zest, sugar and fragrant fruit, what’s not to like?