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Aside from digestive and nutritional benefits, prunes are consumed the world around for their sweet flavor and tender consistency. In many cultures, prune compote is a common, more appetizing way to get a regular dosage of this health-bestowing fruit. Like the compotes made from other fruits, such as peaches, rhubarb, figs or apricots, prune compote is made by slowly heating a simple combination of water and/or butter, dried prunes, sugar or honey, and a touch of vanilla.
Butter is used in some compotes and not in others. For prune compote, cooks can go either way or use both butter and some water. After washing the prunes, they are added to a pan with water, sugar and often some butter. For every dozen prunes, about 1 cup (about 237 ml) of water should be sufficient. Sugar or honey is added to taste, with 3 cups (about 710 ml) of water needing approximately 0.5 cup (about 117 mg) of sugar to be sufficiently sweet.
Just a few drops of vanilla extract will go a long way to rounding off the sweetness of the prune compote, as will a dash of salt, surprisingly. Others add nuts like crushed walnuts or pistacios to the pot while simmering, or just serve the nuts on the side. Some chefs even use equal parts brown sugar and granulated sugar or equal parts honey and sugar. Each combination will produce a slightly different final taste. Common spices also added to prune compote are cloves, cinnamon, citrus zest, tea leaves and even brandy or other liqueurs.
The key to extracting the best flavor from prune compote is a slow heating process. Cooks must stir the pot frequently with a spoon to fully meld the flavors and soften the dried prunes. The liquid should simmer on a medium-low heat for as long as it takes for the prunes to further soften and the compote to become a syrupy liquid.
This compote it not only eaten with oatmeal and ice cream, but also as dipping sauce for some red meats. It is also used as filling for various pastries, particularly in Jewish households. In Greece, prune compote includes yogurt for a creamy twist. Though sometimes used as the exclusive fruit, prune compote will often include other fruits too, like apricots, apples or cherries. It is up to the chef to decide which fruits could use a little more sweetness and sauce.
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