Russian Kompot: I’m probably doing it wrong (with recipe)

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Russian Kompot

This is not my kompot. (Photo by tomek.pl)

I finally made the kompot. What’s kompot? Kompot is essentially a homemade fruit juice. It’s been around for centuries and is popular in Russia and the former East Bloc. I only recently learned that what I always thought was kompot was actually compote, which is also made with cooked fruit, but has less liquid and is eaten, rather than drunk. Compote is French, and thus likes to think it’s far more sophisticated than the humble Slavic kompot.

You can read more about why I’m obsessing over kompot – and watch an old Russian/Soviet movie from the 1960s – here.

And now, for the kompot-drinkers out there, I have questions:

1. Isn’t this just a fancy word for “diuretic beverage”? Or perhaps that’s just what happens when you go digging through my cupboards (who knew I had a problem with stockpiling prunes), but there was more prune than anything else in that thing called a kompot currently sitting on my stove.

2. I am confused – do you serve it with or without the fruit? Again because the prunes. They are ugly and gloppy and not very pretty.

I always thought kompot was one of those “scrounge it up with whatever is around” items. And what’s around right now, in the winter in Toronto, is dried fruit. So in it went. My kompot had prunes, dates, assorted dried cranberries and orange zest. I can’t shake the feeling that this is either the wrong way to do kompot or I’ve just been duped for all these years, because it’s really JUST WARM JUICE. Which might explain why, despite all the jokes, the kompot never actually appears at the end of the meal.

For those of you following along from your kitchens, here’s the recipe I didn’t follow, but you might want to. It’s from Anya von Bremzen’s “Please to the Table” (aka, the bible of Soviet/Russian cookery.)

Kompot (From “Please to the Table” by Anya Von Bremzen)
Serves 12

  • 11 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar, or more to taste
  • ½ – 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 3 medium tart apples (such as Granny Smith), cored, peeled, and cut into wedges
  • 12 – 15 small fresh prunes (you can pit the prunes but Von Bremzen recommends not)
  • 2 cups blackberries or raspberries
  • 1½ cups fresh or canned black currants
  • Fresh lemon juice (optional)
  • Creme de cassis (optional)
  1. In a large kettle, combine the water, sugar and lemon zest. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Add the apples and prunes and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the prunes are soft, 15 minutes.
  3. Add the berries and simmer for another 5-7 minutes. Taste and add more sugar, if desired, or some lemon juice for a tarter taste. Cool and refrigerate.
  4. Add some creme de cassis before serving if you wish.

Here are some other recipes you may want to try, including this Canadian winter version. The interwebs is full of happy kompot drinkers. Perhaps I just need to try again. I did save some of the prunes for a rainy day…

Any kompot drinkers out there? Tips, recipes, or more anecdotes all welcome!

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