Rosewater Plum Compote Recipe

A stunning jewel-colored rosewater plum compote. It can make ordinary french toast, waffles, pancakes, and crepes, and vanilla ice cream extra special.

Rosewater Plum Compote

It's plum season. I can see it coming and going from my back porch. Just over our backyard fence in a neighbor's otherwise barren backyard are three huge plum trees. I can see deep maroon orbs clinging to the top branches where the sunlight is generous. If I turn my glance to some of the inner branches the plums range in color from green to a vibrant ruby-purple depending on ripeness. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of plums, and every one of them will end up in the dirt beneath those trees by the end of the season. There is a pit bull who lounges in the shade at their base guarding the bounty, or I'd almost certainly consider loosening a board or two in the fence to squeeze through and harvest them myself.

The first year we lived here, three or four years back, a few of the plum tree branches crossed over into our yard - Wayne and our friend (and downstairs neighbor) Quyen used a ladder to reap a basketful of plums. Unfortunately, an overzealous gardner cropped those branches back that year, and we can no longer reach the nearest tree. I suppose I could walk over and knock on the door of this house, but I've never seen a person in that back yard, I don't have any idea who lives there, and to be honest I'm a bit intimidated.

So instead of doing anything useful, round about this time every year as I run into friends and neighbors out in front of the house, I ask them to dream up ways to get at the plums. So far no luck with those trees, but the good news is that my other neighbor Kitty brought me a huge bag of deliciously ripe plums courtesy of HER friend with a tree! They are sweet and tart at the same time and in certain fruits the flesh graduates from a rich yellow-orange to a deep blood-range color all in once slice.

So, the dilemma. What to do with all those plums? I decided on a compote. It was late at night when I started, and I wanted something that would come together quickly. I wasn't up for the whole canning and sterilizing thin at that hour. This compote is not overly sweet, and the kiss of sweetness plays nicely with the bit of tartness I mentioned. I couldn't help but think a splash of rose water would mingle beautifully in this compote and lend a subtle floral nose to the compote, so I added that as well.

plum compote recipe

It is the kind of thing that will make ordinary french toast, waffles, pancakes, and crepes just a little more special. It would make a wonderful vanilla ice cream topping. Wayne threw it on an almond butter sandwich for lunch. You might want to "can" it as you would other preserves, but I made this batch to enjoy fresh. You might also try a version with a bit of pectin for more of a jam texture. Or a puree might be nice as well....

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Rosewater Plum Compote Recipe

I believe the plums I received were Santa Rosa. Feel free to cut this recipe in half if you don't have access to the bounty of a neighborhood plum tree. Rose Water can be found in many ethnic and Middle Eastern markets. Don't worry if you can't locate it, the compote will be delicious without it as well.

5 pounds plums
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 pound sugar (I used fine-grain organic cane sugar)
3 tablespoons rose water

Have a big bowl ready. Pit and chop the plums into small 1/2-inch pieces. As you chop place the chopped plums in the bowl and toss with a drizzle of the lemon juice every once in a while. When all the plums have been chopped gently toss them with any remaining lemon juice and the sugar. Stir in the rose water. If you have some time to spare, let the mixture sit for twenty minutes or so.

In your largest, widest, thickest-bottomed pot bring the plum mixture to a boil over medium heat. Stir regularly scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure the fruit doesn't burn. Adjust the heat if needed and cook at a lazy boil for about 20-25 minutes, skimming off any foam that develops on top. Be mindful of the texture of the fruit, you don't want to overcook (or over stir) the fruit to the point that it breaks down and goes to mush.

Remove from heat and spoon the compote into individual jars. Refrigerate until ready to use. It will keep for about a week like this.

Makes about eight 1/2-pint jars of compote.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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I've tried my hand at canning and a good resource for a beginner, is Canning and Preserving for Dummies :-) It's come in handy. I don't think you need to add more sugar, but a sprinkle of pectin OR adding a complementary fruit that is higher in pectin would do the trick. What I typically do to can up my extra fruit is to boil the empty jars, covered with 1 in water, for 10 minutes. Also boil the lids and the lid flaps (the disks with a bit of adhesive on them) for 10 minutes. Make sure you stick your carrying utensil in boiling water for 10 minutes before touching the glass and lid pieces. You can then ladle your compote or jam into the jars or use a wide-mouth funnel (pretty cheap and useful) to help your aim. Since all your canning stuff has been sterilized, try to to touch the jars at all with unsterilized stuff, like your fingers. Have a clean cloth handy to wipe away any drips on the outside of the jar. Make sure you don't fill the jars too full. Leave about a half inch space. Close up the jars, but not super tight, just firmly shut. Put your filled and closed jars back in the large pot of boiling water (carefully) and boil for 10 more minutes. Some air will bubble out of the jars. Then take the jars out to cool. You should hear/see the pop as the lids are sucked on tight. After they cool completely, put 'em up in a pantry or such. Weeks later, before you open a jar, look to see if there are lots of air bubbles have developed in the jar or if the color has changed. Ew, throw these out. I've canned jams and fruit compote for about five years with the above process and haven't had one go bad yet.


Oooh, what a pretty compote! Looks fantastic!


Goodness, Heidi, I just adore your photography! Wow do I have a craving for plums now...


I love plums, I usually just eat them fresh but I'll save this recipe because it sounds delicious.


Mmmmmm...looks delicious! Thank you for the inspiration...Working as a Private chef in New York, i'm always looking for fresh ideas... Big Bossman is going to like that!...if i get a raise because of it...i'll share with you!!...euhhh second thought...i'll share with you after i send my kids to college!


Knock on the door! You have nothing to lose, and only plums AND an neighbor to gain.


...And what if we did want to can this delectable little slice of summer for some enjoyment when the northern california blahs set in? Does anyone have a good internet resource/book recommendation for the "how-to" on canning? P.S.- Heidi, i bought two copies of your book on my trip to Portland last week- one as a birthday gift for my mom and one as a "thank you" present to my neighbor since she gave my sick little bunny his medication every day. it was a much-appreciated gift and i'll be picking up my own copy from Amazon on my next paycheck. thank you for your book and the blog... keep it coming!!


What a splendid treatment for keeping the feeling of freshness without the fear of fermentation. Love it!


Heidi, I agree with Terry, although I think you should take a friend with you. Don't forget to bring a treat for the dog...

mollie bryan

Heidi, Your plum compote sounds yummy. Don't be so "city bound" just go next door and knock.....when a person appears at the door introduce yourself as a neighbor and ask if you can pick a few plums. Offer some compote in return.....wasting plums isn't acceptable. Terry


I did the same thing last summer, only using cardamom pods (later removed) for the extra something, and using part brown sugar. Over vanilla bean ice cream. Damn.


I actually added the rosewater before the boil this time. It still left a nice impression. I could see adding it after though as well. If I did it after the boil I would add a bit at a time until it was to my liking - like a seasoning. Good luck! -h


i really think that trhis food is very delicous and very tasty.hmmmm!!!


It's not the plum season yet but I just can't wait when I see your compote. When I see plums, the first thing that comes to my mind is where I was little, my aunt used to have a plum tree in her house, the sweetest plums I have ever had. One day her son took a plum and thought it will add some color to my little white and blue sailor dress. It certainely did. I couldn't stop cruying.


the photos are fantastic! and I can imagine the taste - plums and rosewater - gorgeous!


This looks delish, we're just getting our first good plums on this side of the Atlantic, and it would be nice to have something homemade to spread on anything and everything.


How fantastic - I have both a plum tree laden with plums and a bottle of rosewater, the latter of which I have been a little bit stuck for nice ideas to use up :-) We usually make a big batch of Delia Smith's Spiced Damson Chutney (great made with either damsons or plums), but this would make a welcome change! I'm not a great preserving expert - does anybody know if it should be possible to make a version that will keep in a jar for a while but without adding a load more sugar?


Oh delicious. I have the same question as the above Ganga. I'd guess at the end so that it doesn't evaporate while enjoying its "lazy boil"?


Yum. It looks and sounds delicious. But when do I add the rosewater?


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