Bulgarians call Kompot “summer in a jar”. It’s like capturing the sun and the sweetness of the fruit at that one right moment when all the flavors are alive and make you feel like you never tasted a fruit like that before.
Kompot, just as Lutenitsa, was my favorite preserved foods when I was a child. My mom would come home with bags of fruit from the farmers market, put her favorite music on, close the kitchen door and do her magic. Each time I would walk by the kitchen I could smell the sweet strawberry fragrance filling the air and just as a dog follows the trace of a scent, I would follow the sweet, fruity smell, open the kitchen door and wonder around the kitchen while stealing fresh strawberries or dipping my fingers in the sweet Kompot water or the warm jam. When the Kompots were done she would store them in the cellar for the winter when no fresh fruits and vegetables were available. But I could never wait all the way to the winter to have a glass of Kompot. And in moments of impatience I would sit in front of the row of hot jars waiting for them to cool down and inspecting for bulging lids – a proof that the jar didn’t seal properly, which meant we had no other choice but to drink the fresh Kompot.
If you are starting to wonder what Kompot is and what it tastes like, it is a very simple technique of mixing fruit, sugar and water where the wonderful flavor and juices of the fruit get extracted by quickly sterilizing (by boiling) the jar with all the ingredients and then letting it to cool and sit for a day or more, so the fruit flavor deepens. The process is very gentle due to the fact that the fruit is enclosed in a jar which keeps the gentle fruit from rapid boiling or falling apart. The final result is a wonderful, flavorful drink that captures the best flavor and aroma of the fruit and is very refreshing when poured over ice. Any fruit packed with flavor can be turned into Kompot but my personal favorites are strawberry, raspberry, pear and quince Kompot.
Kompot has one secret just as anything beautiful and real on this earth, the fruit has to be grown with love under the warm sun, picked just at the right moment when ripe, full of flavor and sweetness and turned into a Kompot the same day the fruit is harvested so all the flavors, juices and goodness are preserved.
As summer goes by and early fall approaches many fruits come at their best. And if you are fortunate as I am, there might be a fruit picking farm nearby where you live. Grab your friends and spend a weekend trip picking delicious fresh fruit. Crispy apples, pears, cherries, or peaches add some sugar, pop them in a jar and make a Kompot. This might become your new favorite drink!
Strawberry Kompot Recipe
• Granulated sugar
• Orange or Lemon rind (optional)
• Jars with brand new lids (screw or twist-off lids)
• Large pot (tall enough to allow at least 1-inch above the jar lids)
• 1 tbsp of sugar for every 6oz. (200ml) jar
Fill the jars halfway through with fruit. Add the sugar (see Sugar Proportions above)and lemon or orange rind, if using. Fill the jars with cold water by leaving 3/4-inch (2 cm) headspace (the easiest way to figure the headspace is by leaving the jar’s neck clear of liquid). Wipe the lip of the jars with clean towel to remove any sugar. Close really tight with the lids
Place the jars in the pot with the lid side up. Fill the pot with water making sure that the water is covering at least 1/2-inch above the jars. Bring to gentle boil and sterilize for 5 minutes. Start timing when the water starts to boil.
To remove the jars from the hot water carefully pour some of the hot water. Using a kitchen mitten or a layered towel, grab each jar, place them upside down on a wire rack or a towel and let them cool completely. Turn the jars lid side up and let them stand at room temperature for at least 1 day before serving.
Store Kompot jars in a cool place. They will be good for up to 1 year after making.
To enjoy Kompot, fill a glass with ice and pur some of the Kopmot liquid leaving off the fruit (some people like to eat the fruit). Store opened Kompot jars in the refrigerator.