If you ever see Zwetschgen at your local farmers’ market, don’t fear the name (we pronounce it “Tsvetshe”) and buy a couple of pounds. Related to the common plum, the slightly smaller and pointier fruits ripen in late August and September and provide the basis for many wonderful preserves, cakes, liquors or just a simple compote.
Zwetschgen are a Central European favorite. With their deep purple color and tart sweetness they are used for the absolutely delicious black and sticky preserve Pflaumenmuß that can’t be missing at any German breakfast table. Every region of Germany has its own version of Zwetschgencake that is another highlight of the season – not to speak of various kinds of brandy and moonshine that whole villages take pride in making and drinking.
As I was making lunch for my grandparents the other day, a pound of Zwetschgen provided the basis for a very simple yet pleasant dessert. It was exactly what we needed after a heavy meal of pork, kraut and dumplings. The tartness refreshes the palate and the ruby-red juice brightens up a meal that is naturally not very abundant in color.
Simple Zwetschgenkompott, 4 servings:
- 1 pound of Zwetschgen, washed, pitted and cut in halves
- 50 grams / a quarter of a cup of sugar, if the fruit are very ripe, start out with less. Ideally, the compote still has some acidity.
- 75 ml / a third of a cup white wine
- One piece of cinnamon
- Optional: orange zest, star anise, plum liquor – but I would advocate keeping it simple for a change.
Throw everything into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for literally a couple of minutes. The juice should be light purple and the fruit should be soft. They fall apart quickly, so keep an eye on them!
Let cool over night and serve in small bowls the following day. The compote goes well with vanilla ice cream, custard or Greek yogurt, but this is traditionally an everyday dessert without much of a fuss.