Not “Kitchen Tested” Cranberry Compote

I grew up eating jellied cranberries out of a can at Thanksgiving. Imagine my dismay on learning that my Midwest relatives do not eat jellied cranberry sauce! I thought it was the fault of the can, which led me to create something “exactly the same only different” (as my husband would say). Thus was cranberry compote devised, based on memories of my grandmother’s prune and apple compote.

Since that first foray into cranberry compote some 25 years ago, I’ve learned that the Internet has hundreds of variations on my recipe. I’ve tried many of them and still like mine best. A word of warning: as recipes go, this one succeeds by guess and by golly. It’s a new experience every time.

Despite all my work, sad to say, my Midwest relatives still don’t like cranberries. At least they don’t like my compote.

The recipe calls for simple ingredients:

2 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and chopped
2 Bosc Pears, peeled and chopped
2 bags of fresh cranberries, washed and picked through
2 Lemons, peeled and julienned (optional – you have to really like lemon)
2 cups of sugar, divided
2 tsps. cinnamon
1/4 cup of water in reserve (you may not need it)

A note about the julienned lemons. I like the sour/bitter chew that you get every so often from the strips of lemon peel. I once added three lemons, but that was a bit much, even for me. First decision is whether you like lemon peel.

And while we’re talking ingredients, let’s talk sugar. I’ve tried this recipe with sugar, fructose, honey, maple syrup, and artificial sweeteners like Aspartame and Xylitol. Frankly, sugar works best. Since the amount of sugar used varies wildly between one and two cups depending on the sweetness of the apples and pears, and since I make this twice a year, I figure: why not sugar? Okay, so maybe the sugar cancels out the antioxidants in the cranberries. But then again, on a positive note, maybe not.


Once you’ve chopped and washed everything, put it in a pot with one cup of sugar. I use a medium sized soup pot, which is wider than most pots. Turn on the burner to medium high and wait to hear that first pop of cranberries. Then stir.


Keep stirring until the sugar melts and the mixture starts to boil. Turn the heat down to medium low and continue to stir.

At this point, you need to decide whether to add more sugar. By this time, your compote should have developed a lot of liquid at the bottom of the pot. If it hasn’t, add about a quarter cup of sugar. If it has, leave it be.

If after you add that first extra quarter cup of sugar (and after a few stirs to let the sugar melt), it still isn’t liquid-y, add the quarter cup of water.

Let the compote simmer until it develops a pie filling consistency. When it does, take it off the heat and let it cool. Taste. Do you need more sugar? Add another quarter of a cup and stir. You may need to hit it with a bit more heat to make sure the additional sugar melts.


As you can see, this is not one of those kitchen tested recipes, you know, the ones where you measure this and that and it turns out perfect every time. With this recipe, a lot depends on your ingredients. Even more depends on your personal taste for sweet juxtaposed with your tolerance for sour.

Did I mention that no one but me eats this?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers!!


6 thoughts on “Not “Kitchen Tested” Cranberry Compote

  1. Sounds delightful to me! And, having grown up in the Midwest, all I was accustomed to was the nasty “goo” that came in a can & my family called “cranberries “. They were horrified when I brought fresh cranberry/orange salad to the table.

  2. I was curious so I tried this. Only change I made was using one lemon and one orange. I think it’s my new fave! Thanks so much for sharing. Great idea to just julienne the rind. I’ve always either sent the whole fruit through a grinder or food processor or else zested the rind and then squeezed the juice and pulp.

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