Making the best fruit compote involves using ingredients that are in season and fresh, carefully pairing them with spices and experimenting with flavorful sweeteners, as well as using juices or liqueurs for a finishing touch. Seasonal ingredients ensure the freshest fruit with sweet, ripe flavor. While frozen fruit can be used, fresh produce offers palette-pleasing results, as does playing with familiar and exotic spices and herbs. Sweeteners like cane sugar, honey, and dates all give different tastes and textures for the best custom compote, as do juices like lime and orange as well as flavored liqueurs.
Using seasonal ingredients when making fruit compote provides you with the healthiest option available. Slightly over-ripe fruit has a higher sugar content and will produce a sweeter mixture, while tangier goods will need some sweetening. Summer fruits include peaches, strawberries, and plums, as well as rhubarb and others, depending on your location. Fall and winter brings fresh pears, apples, and citrus, which all work well for this dish.
Frozen ingredients may be used in fruit compote, but fresh produce retains its texture and nuanced flavors better. It also works much better if you want a compote with firmer pieces of fruit. Soaking dried fruit and adding it to your recipe can add density and texture as well, and the flavors are slightly different than fresh produce.
Pairing spices with your compote can bring out its complex flavors. Fresh, chopped mint accents summer fruit like berries and peaches well. Cinnamon can be used with just about any fruit, and pungent spices like nutmeg, cloves, or cardamom can add a seasonal taste to fall and winter compotes. Lavender or lemon basil can add an unexpected, exotic taste to otherwise basic recipes.
Experiment with various sweeteners for a balanced fruit compote. Turbinado or raw cane sugar can be slowly melted into a liquid to thicken the fruit, as can honey, maple syrup, or agave. Each sweetener adds a unique flavor, and honey typically gives a thicker texture than maple syrup or granulated sugar. Dried dates or figs also add sweetness and will slightly thicken the sauce. Sweetener may not be needed if you use very ripe fruit and want a thinner compote.
A splash of juice or liqueur further complements the fruit compote's flavors. Lime juice works well with fruits seasoned with mint, and it adds tang to neutralize very sweet mixtures. Orange juice adds a milder tang with a touch of sweetness. Liqueurs can add different flavors as well, depending on their ingredients.