MOSTARDA

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Buon giorno!

 

So I thought I’d turn the tables on you and talk about something completely unexpected. Today we go to the left bank of the Po River, in the heart of Lombardy or Lombardia, a region in northern Italy where the city of Cremona nestles. Cremona, a city most noted for the violin making of Guarneri and Stradivari, is also known for making the finest MOSTARDA or agrodolce fruit (sweet and sour) of its kind. Although, different forms of Mostarda can be found elsewhere in Italy, here in this northern city, theirs is the most complex in ingredients and flavor.

What is Mostarda? We are all familiar with chutney, fruit conserves, and spiced fruit. MOSTARDA can be simply reduced by definition to a kind of Northern Italian form of any of those which pairs the savory with the sweet, and when added to fresh fruit becomes the most elegant and ethereal of concoctions. France has its moul ardent  or moutarde,  but MOSTARDA is a totally Italian creation. You’ll find it to be a totally different substance from region to region and also with different fruits used. Simply put, it is a mixture of fresh fruit combined with spices, one of which is mustard. It is most often offered in the fall, and you’ll soon see the reasons why.

A little history: It is said that the infamous Catherine de Medici placed a jar of MOSTARDA in her dowry when she left Italy to be wed to the son of the King of France in the 1500’s. Now you must admit, the stuff had to be pretty good to be offered up for this event. Actually, there are historical references to this fruit mixture that go back even further to the fifth century. The word itself comes from the Italian ardente or burning which relates to the hot sensation of mustard on the tongue.

The Cremona thing: The original versions or recipes for MOSTARDA  from Cremona keep the fruits whole. They are candied in a way, but also have the sharp mustardy flavor which permeates the fruit and the syrup. When you see actual MOSTARDA from Cremona, it is usually presented in a bowl with the shiny fruits glistening, whole, and almost transparent like one might imagine sugar plums. Sometimes each fruit is served on its own and in its own bowl. This is the form that you will see most often in jars. Outside of Cremona, you will find it in all sorts of forms. Some are found in mashed or chopped form. The style of Cremona presents like no other, but for my taste and use, I prefer to serve it with the fruits sliced. It is attractive – you can see the fruit pieces – but it is a form that most people can relate to using.

Whatever do you do with it? Ahhh! Now there’s the fun! You can do so much with this lovely stuff. As I mentioned earlier, MOSTARDA is most often served in the fall. Why? This is the time of year when your attention turns to roasted meats and foods of a heartier nature. Spicy cooked fruit is the perfect accompaniment to roast pork or game especially as well as chicken, beef, or lamb. Served alongside the meats, it eliminates the need for heavy sauces or gravies, although you can certainly use them as well. I like to put some of the fruit on salad greens with a light dotting of  a nice aged Balsamic Vinegar and use it as a salad course. Another way Italians use MOSTARDA is with savory cheeses on a plate at the end of a meal. You can also use it as an appetizer or add it to a salumi plate. Parmigiano- Reggiano, Montasio, and goat cheeses – aged or not are perfect pairings with MOSTARDA. The beautiful aged goat cheese  or chevre that you see in these photos is from cheese artisan extraordinaire,  CalyRoad Creamery, Sandy Springs, Ga. Theirs is unsurpassed in my opinion and offers flavor and consistency I have not found elsewhere.

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What fruits are used? Be inventive – use what you like. Although, I don’t think I’d use bananas. For authenticity, I like combinations of mangoes, pears, apples, figs, plums, peaches, and dried fruits like apricots and cherries.

Keeping:  MOSTARDA keeps a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. You can preserve it using your usual canning method. You can also freeze it in containers to pull out when you need it. That is what I do. It is very convenient to pop a container out of the freezer on a cold fall or winter night when you’re sharing a great wine and you’d like to dress up that hunk of cheese that looks lonely on the plate.

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MOSTARDA

Makes: About 4-5 cups

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

Any combination of fruit is fine: mangoes, pears, apples, peaches, plums, figs, dried fruits like apricots and cherries

2 Pears

3 Peaches

4 Purple Plums

8 Figs

1 c. Dried Cherries

1 c. sugar

1 c. water

5 tsp. dry mustard

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 c. White Balsamic Vinegar

Instructions:

For pears and apples you can use a peeler to remove the skins. To remove skins on peaches, plums, figs, etc., drop them in boiling water for a couple of minutes.

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Remove them and let them cool. Then the skins just pull right off in your fingers. Discard the skins.

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Slice the fruit in 1/2 inch pieces.

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Dissolve the dry mustard and cinnamon in the white balsamic vinegar.

Put the sugar and water in a pot or pan. Stir. Add mustard mixture.

Bring to boil and cook until sugar  is dissolved.

Add all of the fruit to the pot. Stir gently. See a couple of different mixtures of fruit here.

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Let the mixture of fruit cook about 2-5 minutes. No more. See 2 different assortments of fruits simmering above.

Remove from heat.

Cool down.

Now either proceed with your preserving/canning method or spoon fruit into plastic containers and add some of the liquid from the pot to each container. Discard remaining liquid. Freeze the containers you plan to use later.

This MOSTARDA is really tasty and wonderful to serve with your fall dishes of roasted or grilled meats, on salad, or with savory cheese as is described in the above text. Enjoy this Northern Italian specialty and surprise your friends and family who probably haven’t heard of it. For a little more adventure – it is “blow your mind” delicious with foie gras, or any game dish. Salute the new fall season with this versatile dish!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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Comments

  1. Thank you for introducing me to a NEW cheese…
    This will be a new treat for
    the “Book Club” this month .
    MMM Mostarda and Hemmingway..
    ..I will let you know how this goes with Bellini’s

  2. Jane Fairbairn says:

    Ah Ms Linda–You have me searching my memory bank to see if I have ever enjoyed this wonderful, easy!, dish!!! So far I’m coming up blank.
    Reading your comments, looking at the pictures and reading the recipe — what a wonderful way to start my day! Grazie.
    Giovannina

    • Jane – As the story goes – it is a very very old recipe. It hasn’t had a lot of new interest until now. Mostarda has recently begun to pop up on restaurant menus. It is a wonderful addition to a fall meal.Enjoy!

  3. After I filled my jars with the hot mix it seams the mustard mix is separating as longer it stands.is this normal?

    • Franzi –
      Can you be a little more specific about the problem. I’m not sure I’m getting it. If you mean the fruit remains separate from the liquid – then yes that is correct. It’s not supposed to be like a jam where it all clings together. Take a look at the photos of the fruits with the cheese. You can serve the fruit with the liquid or just serve the mustard fruits as in the photo. Also see where the recipe says to use SOME of the liquid in each jar and discard the remaining liquid.
      I hope that helps!

  4. I haven’t had mostarda since childhood, and this looks fabulous to me! I want to introduce it to my family, so I’m looking forward to trying your recipe.

    You said any combination of those fruits is good….so I’m trying to figure out about how many cups of fruit I need to have before putting it into the pot to simmer. It looks like maybe about 8 cups? Would that be right? The recipe says it makes 4 – 5 cups, though – so maybe 7 cups? I know the fruit will soften and release air, so I’ll wind up with less than before I begin….but how much less? I’m sorry to be difficult – I’d really like to use some mango and can it, though – so I want my portions to be correct. Thank you very much!!!!

    • Judy – Since you are using different fruits the amounts will change a little. I think 8 cups is fine but taste and adjust your seasoning if needed. You might need to bump up the amounts of mustard, spice, and vinegar depending. Also any fruits will vary in sweetness so you may need a little more sugar. Taste and see!

  5. Pam Simone says:

    Linda,
    Thank you for this wonderful website. I’ve seen mostarda on cooking shows and they never really explain how to serve it.
    I will have to try your recipe because it doesn’t sound too complicated and, based on your suggested fruits, more tasty than commercially prepared mot areas. It does sound like a nice addition to an Italian themed buffet for fall gatherings.
    I really enjoyed the background information on the dish as well. I will have to keep up with your site because I love Italian food and like to try dishes beyond the typical pasta dishes.
    Pam Simone

    • Pam – Thank you for your nice comments. I hope you enjoy this recipe and others that you might want to try. Ciao!

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