Mostarda is a full-flavored, Italian chutney you'll want to put on everything. It's made from dried and fresh fruits and mustard seeds. It's sweet and tangy, and with the addition of cayenne pepper, you can make it as hot as you want. Serve mostarda with a platter of cheese and crackers. Most cheeses will do, but I think gorgonzola, Pecorino-Romano, or goat cheese is especially delicious. Mostarda goes great on an antipasto or charcuterie board and as a spread on toast or roasted meats. You're gonna want mostarda on everything! In Italy, mostarda di frutta is served at Christmastime with mascarpone cheese. Mostarda doesn't need to be canned. It can be served immediately or stored in the fridge for weeks.
One day, I was flipping through America's Test Kitchen's book, Foolproof Preserving. The beginning of the book offers a lexicon that defines the differences among jams, jellies, and marmalades, all different types of preserves. The lexicon includes mostarda.
I was so excited to discover this chutney-like preserve, only to find there is no recipe for it in the book. (Other than that, the book is fantastic, and I highly recommend it.)
Mostarda Story: The Canning Connection
For years, I've been flipping through my canning books. I’ve done more flipping than canning, but I dream of a basement filled with jams and jellies and pickled everything. I dream of standing in front of shelves and shelves of jars I canned and relish (ahem) in the fruits of my labor, feeling simpatico with my dead relatives.
I have a cousin, Billy (he's alive), but I think he has a real simpatico with our dead relatives. He's a throw-back and a preserver of tradition.
Billy bakes bread, artisan loaves, in an outdoor oven he built himself. He makes his own sausages and hangs them to cure in a communal, temperature-controlled garage (a boy's club where grown men come together to drink and grind meat). He has a flourishing garden, too, where he grows a plethora of fruits and vegetables and cans them all.
Billy has a modest plot of land, a steep hill on the side of his house, that's not ideal for gardening, but Billy's garden thrives. It's how I imagine our ancestors must have gardened, on the mountainsides of Calabria.
Billy jars and pickles everything: jellies, jams, applesauce, tomatoes, banana peppers stuffed with sauerkraut (he's part Irish), BBQ banana peppers, and these amazing little cherry peppers that he keeps in vinegar for weeks, stuffed with Fontinella cheese and prosciutto, and preserved in oil. But Billy's never heard of mostarda.
After discovering mostarda, I was on a mad hunt for a good recipe.
I narrowed it down to two recipes: Food 52's long and authentic way to make mostarda and Savour's quick and spicy method. I made them both, and honestly, I liked the quick method better. If you want to be a purest and have three days to spare, then have at it, but the quick method exceeded every exception I had. I made a few modifications, like cutting down the sugar and amping-up the wine and cayenne pepper, and don't forget the salt. Salt enhances all that mostarda-y goodness.
I know I romanticize all this canning business. After all, canning was once a necessity. But as I stand in my modern kitchen, making this recipe because I want to and buying all the ingredients from the store, I can't help thinking how cool it is that thousands of years ago, somewhere in Italy, someone I may have been related to was making this very recipe.
As soon as I perfected my recipe, I sent a copy to my cousin, Billy, along with a picture.
I wrote, "I discovered this Italian preserve and I know you are going to want to can heaps and heaps of it."
"That looks beautiful," Billy replied.
I was so proud to share a new, old thing with my expert, conservator cousin. Now we can preserve a new tradition together. Now we both can feel a real simpatico with our dead relatives and with each other, too.
Mostarda: A Sweet and Spicy Italian Chutney Recipe
- 1 lb ripe pears peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
- 1 lb apples peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
- 4 ounces dried cranberries
- 4 ounces dried cherries
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tsp ground mustard
- 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
- 2 TBSP yellow mustard seed
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper add more or less to taste
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 TBSP canola oil
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- Peel and cut the fresh fruit. In a medium-sized pot, add all ingredients and stir. Cook over medium-high heat and let it come to a boil. Let it bubble for an hour and 15 minutes or until the syrup becomes nice and thick. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.Store in an airtight container for 3-4 weeks.
Who Knew? Mustard seeds are really good for you.