Mostarda is an ancient Italian condiment that probably had its start as a way of preserving fresh fruit throughout the year. It is is very tough to find in the United States outside of a few specialty stores which import it directly from Italy.
I tried it for the first time in Chicago at a restaurant called Folia in the West Loop. The owner imports it directly from the town he was born in on Amalfi Coast. I tried it with cheese and salumi and was blown away by the way it complimented the cheeses and meats. The essence of the mustard and the sweetness of the fruit gives this condiment the definition of agrodolce.
Mostarda can be made many ways but it typically has the same base which consists of fresh, or dried fruit, sugar, and either Mustard Essence, or powdered mustard diluted in white wine, or white wine vinegar. For me mustard essence is the only way to go.
Mustard Essence is difficult to obtain in the United States but it can be purchased while in Italy from a chemist/pharmacist. Mustard essence or the essential oil of mustard is a volatile irritant which can be highly toxic if used incorrectly. It is sold in small vials and measured out precisely with an eye dropper when used as a flavoring. A little of this stuff goes a long way. Mustard Essence is a clear concentrated liquid which won't cloud the simple syrup the fruit is steeped in over a four day period of time.
What do I use Mostarda on?
Traditionally Italians used it as a way to spice up boiled meats. It goes very well with a braised or boiled meats such as beef brisket. It also works well with roasted pork loin and porchetta.
Mostarda makes an impressive and easy appetizer when served drizzled over various cheeses which was the way it was originally introduced to me. Your guests have never had anything like it before and they are either going to love it or hate it.
(This recipe was updated 11/22/17)
10 lb Fresh Fruit
5 lb Sugar
Fresh Orange Juice
Step One - Select and prepare the fruit
The most magnificent Mostardo is made using whole pieces of fruit. So I usually look for fruit that would look good suspended in the jar by the syrup. Apples, pears, peaches, apricots, kiwi's, tangerines, oranges, mandarins, limes, cherries, quinces, cranberries, strawberries, mangoes, are a few of the choices you can use to make great Mostardo.
I also sometimes add walnuts or hazelnuts to the mixture to add a crunch texture to contrast with the soft fruit. Don't be afraid to experiment with different types of combination's. I sometimes add thinly sliced Jalapeno's to the mixture to kick up a little heat. Some folks might be inclined to add some red chili pepper flakes too.
The first step is to peel and core the fresh fruit. Apples and pears are favorite ingredients which can be sliced in halves or quarters. Berries can be added whole.
When I do limes and oranges I leave the peels on but select varieties with a very thin skin and slice them extremely thin using a mandolin. I like to use mandarin oranges whole because they are visually pleasing and easy to peel.
I've recently experimented with a combination fresh and dried fruits. I really like texture and quality of the product with some dry fruit added to the mix. Pineapple, mango, papaya, kiwi, and figs are dried fruit that work well. They plump up during the process as they absorb moisture from the fresh fruit. Adding a few glazed cherries to the mix is a nice visual option.
Step Two - Steeping the Fruit
Once you have your fruit prepared and loaded into a bowl you then add 1/2 pound of sugar per pound of of fresh fruit to the top of the mixture. Pour four cups of fresh orange juice over the top. You then let it sit uncovered for 24 hours giving it a turn or two to mix the ingredients along the way.
Step Three - Concentrating the Syrup
After 24 hours the juice in the fruit begins to be replaced by the sugar it is absorbing. All the sugar should now be dissolved. Empty the mixture into a colander to drain it into a sauce pan. Return the fruit mixture to its bowl. Heat the syrup until it starts to boil and reduce for five minutes. Once that is done return the syrup to the bowl where the fruit is residing. Let the mixture sit for another 24 hours once again giving it a turn or two.
Step Four - Concentrate the Syrup again
Repeat step three and let rest for another 24 hours. You should be noticing that your fruit is beginning to shrink which is natural because the sugar is leaching the liquid from the fruit.
Step Five - Concentrate the Syrup again
Repeat step four and let rest for another 24 hours.
Step Six - Concentrate the Syrup one last time
Once again repeat step five but this time we are going to prepare to season and can the mixture.
Step Seven - Sterilize and Pack the jars
Sterilize your jars and lids in boiling water for fifteen minutes. I prefer to use pint jars when making Mostarda. Add the fruit pieces to your jars and fill to the top. Try to be artful in how you arrange and divvy up the fruit. Mostardo just isn't a condiment in Italy it is a work of art.
Step Eight - Season with Mustard Essence
Remove four ounces of the reserved syrup and add approximately 20-30 drops. Be careful to avoid contact any skin contact with this stuff and make sure that you don't get a sniff of it. After adding the fruit pour it in, and then add hot concentrated syrup to cover, tapping the jar repeatedly to dislodge air bubbles as you fill. (Safety note: I use protective gloves, goggles, and a gas mask while handing mustard essence.)
Step Nine - Canning and Storing
Cover the jars, wipe them clean, and put them on a cool dark shelf in your pantry. The Mostarda will be ready in 2 week's time. It is not necessary to heat seal the jars. The sugar content is high enough to prohibit the formation of bacteria.