Artusi (1/3): pear compote

Yes, le pere [pears] can be composted. But you can also use them to create a compote, a preserve obtained by slow-cooking fruit in sugar syrup. In Italian, we’d call this recipe pere in composta – which means pear compote, not pear compost. Although yes, le pere can also be composted (see above).

Recipes number 709 and 710 are devoted to pere in composta in Pellegrino Artusi’s quintessential cookbook La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene [Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well]. It’s safe to say that every Italian cook has at least flipped through Artusi’s recipe collection; most own their own copy.

Mr. Popular, aka Pellegrino Artusi

In this post, we’ll look at the original pere in composta recipe in Italian, and then use three short-cuts to translate it without getting into the technicalities of Italian grammar. The goal is to get comfortable working with Italian recipes no matter what your language level, since not every great recipe is already available in English translation.

Here’s what the original recipe looks like in a 1911 edition of the book:

pere in compote.jpg

Too many words? Don’t get discouraged!

1. Figure out which ingredients are listed in the recipe. Simply identify and translate the nouns and numbers, right up top where you expect them to be. Then look them up, or retype the Italian words into Google translate and have them do the work. In this case, we have:

Pears, 600 grams

Fine powdered sugar, 120 grams

Water, two glasses

Half lemon

Not too bad, right? Of course it will take longer to do this if the list of ingredients is longer. But a great recipe is worth it.

2. Pull out the big chunks. Replace words under 5 letters with a dash (-). Just focusing on the bigger words, the recipe comes out as:

– – perine lasciatele intere – – gambo; – – grosse tagliatele – spicchi – – – – – altre – – – – sbucciate gettatele nell’acqua suddetta – – avrete spremuto – mezzo limone. Questo serve – conservare – bianchezza – frutto. Fatele bollire nella stessa acqua passata – colino, versate – zucchero quando entra – bollore – – resto regolatevi – – – albicocche. Servitele diacce.

3. Use the approximate power of machine translation. Machine translation doesn’t translate literature well, but if you feed it small chunks of more ‘practical’ language you can generally get the gist of something. You already know the quantities needed from Step 1, now let’s see take the big chunks of directions from Step 2 and see how Google Translate handles them:

Perine leave them whole – stem – thick cut – cloves – other – peeled throw them – above water – you’ll juice – half a lemon – This serves – retain – whiteness – fruit – Boil in the same water past – colander, pour – sugar when it enters – boil – rest regulator – apricots. Serve ice regions.

It looks like refrigerator poetry. Try smoothing out the chunks, add in the quantities from Step 1, and do a little guesswork to fill in the gaps.

600 grams of perine (little pears) leave them whole stem, [if] thick cut into cloves. [When] peeled throw the pears in two glasses of water with juice from half a lemon. This serves to retain the whiteness of the fruit. Boil them in the same water strained in a colander and add 120 g sugar when it boils. ?? apricots. Serve cold.

Never mind the apricots, that’s more or less how you make pear compote! This is not a perfect formula by any means, but if your motivation for learning Italian is to cook more Italian food, then it helps to take a bold approach to deciphering Italian recipes.

If this is the kind of learning you like to do, pick up a copy of Italian Through Food!

© 2017

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