Okay, let’s get this out of the way without further adieu: Macerating Fruit is NOT the same as making Jam or Compote. I got a bunch of feedback on yesterday’s post on Drunken Fruit and it’s clear that some of my faithful readers are still unclear on the differences. Which are major!
To cook or not to cook?
The main difference between Macerated Fruit, and James and Compotes, is that the latter two are virtually always cooked. Maceration simply involves simply letting Fruit steep in Booze. Yes, you can add spices and even herbs if you like, but you never apply heat. That would defeat the purpose of soaking the Fruit in Alcohol in the first place!
When you make Jam, you must have sufficient Pectin – a natural ‘structural polymer’ found abundantly in Fruits – to ensure the mixture thickens. That usually means adding some in the form of a tan-coloured powder, which is commercially extracted from high-pectin fruits and dehydrated. Pectin thickens when dissolved in a liquid and heated.
When you make a Compote, you don’t worry about adding Pectin. You go with whatever is naturally present in the Fruit you’re using and add Sugar which also thickens, into a syrup, when heated. Compotes are usually much richer in Fruit than Jams, and have much less liquid. The liquid in Compotes is almost always less viscous than that in Jam; more syrupy.
Little or no Booze…
Compotes may have some Wine or Liquor in them for flavour. Alcohol doesn’t interfere with the development of Syrup and most of the Alcohol is cooked off, anyway, during the simmering of the mixture.
Jams rarely have any hint of Wine or Liquor in them. That’s probably because Alcohol reacts with Pectin to form a precipitate, taking it out of solution. You don’t want runny Jam with a big glob of gooey stuff at the bottom of the pot!
Macerated Fruits rely primarily on Alcohol and secondarily on Sugar to achieve their flavour and texture.
Please use the right terms!
The topic for this post suggested itself to me after I went half crazy trying to Google information on Drunken Fruit for yesterday’s post. I kept getting references to Compotes, which many posters to Food websites equated with Macerated Fruits. I also found posts where folks equated Compotes to Jams and Jellies. What a mess! Glad to have sorted it all out for you!
~ Maggie J.