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This recipe is adapted from Mary Randolph’s 18th-century version by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump. The apples, thinly sliced, can also be used as a filling for Paper Pancakes.


  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 pounds cooking apples (such as Granny Smith or Pippin), peeled, cored, and quartered
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon, cut into thin strips

  • Boiled Custard for serving (optional)


1. In a large Dutch oven or saucepan, bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar, and stir until dissolved. Add the cinnamon and lemon zest.

2. Add the apples, and stir to coat with the liquid. Bring to a boil, and then immediately reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the apples are tender (but not mushy), occasionally basting them with the liquid.

3. Remove the apples to a serving dish, reserving the liquid in the pan. (If cinnamon sticks are used, remove and discard them.) Using a slotted spoon, remove and reserve the lemon zest and set aside to cool.

4. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar to the reserved cooking liquid, and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil uncovered until the liquid is reduced and syrupy. Set aside to cool briefly, and pour over the apples. Lay the reserved lemon zest over the apples.

5. Serve the compote warm or chilled as a side dish with Boiled Custard, if desired.

Serves 6 to 8