Peres in Composte

This recipe of cooked fruit in syrup is absolutely fabulous (and addicting!). It could be served as a side to a beef or pork dish, or as a standalone dessert.


Country: England
Century: 15th



  • 3 pears
  • 1 quince
  • 8 dates
  • Few slivers ginger*
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 c wine
  • 2 c sugar

Boil pears and quince in water until tender, but not mushy (20-25 minutes for pears, 35-40 for quince). Meanwhile, make a simple syrup with the water, wine and 2 cups of sugar - mix together in a sauce pot and heat, but do not boil, until liquid is uniform. Core the fruit and cut into bite sized pieces. Cut the dates into long slivers, and cut the ginger into small pieces. Mix cinnamon, ginger and sugar together and sprinkle over the cooked fruit. Put the fruit in the syrup and allow to cool. The heat of the syrup will cook the dates. Serve cool (or warm, according to your preference).

*The period recipe says to soak the ginger slivers in wine for a number of days and then to soak it in honey for a night. This result is very tasty, but takes a bit of remembering. A good substitute is to use crystallized ginger and soak it in wine while making the syrup and boiling the other fruit.


Original Recipe Sources

Source [A Noble Boke off Cookry, Robina Napier (ed.)]: To mak peres in composte tak a good quantite of canelle and sugur and set it on the fyer to boile and draw yt throughe a stren then lesk dates thyn and put them ther to in a pot and boille wardens and pair them and put them in the ceripe put ther to sanders and boile them and alay them up with chardwins and salt it and mak yt doucet and chargaunt and put it out of the vesselle in to a treene vesselle and let it boille then pare smalle raisins and tried guinger and temper it ij dais or ij nyghtes with wyne then lay it in clarified hony cold a day and nyght then tak the raisins out of the hony and cast ther to peres in composte and serue it furthe with a cold ceripe.

Source [ Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, T. Austin (ed.)]: Peris in compost. Take Wyne, canell, And a grete dele of white Sugur, And sette hit ouer the fire, And hete hit but a litull, and no3t boyle; And drawe hit thorgh a streynour; And then take faire dates, and y-take oute the stones, and leche hem in faire gobettes al thyn, and cast there-to; And then take pere Wardones, and pare hem, And seth hem, And leche hem in faire gobettes, and pike oute the core, and cast hem to the Syryppe; And take a litull Saundres, and caste there-to in the boylyng, And loke that hit stonde well, with Gynger, Sugur, And well aley hit with canell, and cast salt thereto, and lete boyle; And then caste it oute in a treyn (Note: treyne is treen, wooden) vesse [correction; sic = MS. vesselle vesselle] ll, And lete kele; And then pare clene rasinges (Note: shavings, parings) of ginger, and temper hem ij. or iij. daies, in wyne, And after, ley hem in clarefied hony colde, all a day or a night; And then take the rasons4 oute of the hony, And caste hem to the peres in composte; And then serue hit forth with sirippe, all colde, And nought hote.

Source [ Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, T. Austin (ed.)]: xxxv - Perys en Composte. Take Wyne an Canel, and a gret dele of Whyte Sugre, an set it on the fyre and hete it hote, but let it nowt boyle, an draw it thorwe a straynoure; than take fayre Datys, an pyke owt the stonys, an leche hem alle thinne, an caste ther-to; thanne take Wardonys, an pare hem and sethe hem, an leche hem alle thinne, and caste ther-to in-to the Syryppe: thanne take a lytil Sawnderys, and caste ther-to, an sette it on the fyre; an 3if thow hast charde quynce, caste ther-to in the boyling, an loke that it stonde wyl with Sugre, an wyl lyid wyth Canel, an caste Salt ther-to, an let it boyle; an than caste yt on a treen vessel, and lat it kele, and serue forth.