The History Dish: Sour Apple Compote

Sweet n’ Sour! Apple compote.

I always like to share a good apple recipe this time of year, so you can take advantage of the fall apple bounty, or use up a couple of fruits on the verge of going bad.  This is a really unique one from the Manual For Cooking and Baking.


The lovely lady pictured is Hinde Anchamnitzki (pronounce Hinn-dah Ahn-prwah-nit-ski), who published the first Yiddish cookbook in America.  The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is working on translating it, and is planning on building a larger program around her seminal work utilizing their new demo kitchen space.

Below is her recipe for “English Apple Compote” that plays with the sweet/sour flavors that traditionally appear in Jewish cooking.  I’ve tried it, and it’s fantastic.  It calls for “Sour Salts,” which is citric acid; I was able to find it at Williams Sonoma, of all places.  It gives the dish the mouthpuckering Sour Patch kids sensation one doesn’t normally associated with turn-of-the-century food.  Additionally, cooking the raisins in the sugar syrup teases the flavor out of the dried fruits, and give the dish a distinct raisin tang.

The original recipe is below; it was traslated for me by vice president of education at the Tenement Museum, Annie Polland; I modernized the recipe myself.

The original recipe.

European Apple Compote
From Manual For Cooking and Baking by Hinde Anchamnitzki, 1901.
1/2 lb Sugar
1/4 lb Raisins
1/2 tsp Sour Salts (Citric Acid)
1/4 c Sugar
6 medium baking apples
Combine sugar, raisins, sour salt and water in a large pot; cook over a medium heat until all of the sugar is dissolved. Peel and core apples, and cut them into 1/4 in. slices.  Cook in a large pan, covered, until the apple slices are tender when pierced with a fork.  Add to sugar syrup; allow to cool, and serve.


If you like, you can pair this compote with a pie crust, like this one made of Matzo meal.  The crust is tasty enough to serve any time of year, not just for Passover!