In the last couple years, the quantity of cheese boards and charcuterie trays speckling Los Angeles restaurant menus has grown exponentially and for good reason. It’s a delicious first course, and for the creative diner (myself happily included), it means you get to mix and match flavors with each bite. One of my favorite additions is mostarda: a condiment you may be unfamiliar with, but not for long, as it’s one delicious jam.
Originating in northern Italy, mostarda is essentially a sweet and savory jam. To achieve the flavor, it combines dried, candied fruits, or both, various seasonings, and mustard seeds. Though it seems like an odd, unappetizing combination, mostarda works remarkably well. Mostarda pairs well with anything from roasted chicken to pasta and from cured meats to hard-aged cheese.
Now that we have segued into the fall months, mostarda (widely considered a fall favorite) is a great new recipe to delve into. Making mostarda takes little more effort than making a marinara, and since you don’t need to “gel” it like traditional jam or jelly recipes, the risk of failure is pretty minimal. Once you get all your mise en place assembled, it’s simply a matter of loading it all into the pot, and voila!
As with most regional or time-honored recipes, mostarda is open to many, many interpretations. Candied fruit, dried fruit, fresh fruit, mustard seeds, dried mustard: almost anything goes. The most important thing to remember is to include the essential ingredients. Try this recipe to get the hang of things, then modify based on your own preferences.
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup dried raisins
- ½ cup dried apricots, finely diced
- ½ dried dates, chopped
- 3 tablespoons dry mustard
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Add the dried fruits, and simmer for 10 minutes until sugar is dissolved and all fruits are beginning to plump up and rehydrate.
- Stir in the mustard powder, seeds, and vinegar. If it looks like the liquid level is getting low, add more water, ½ cup at a time, until the mixture is partially covered.
- Cover with a lid, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes so that nothing sticks to the bottom and burns.
- Once it’s cooked down, remove the lid, and take off the heat. Taste and season.
- Allow to cool, then store in glass jars in the fridge. It will be thick, rich, slightly tart, and sweet.
This stuff is delicious on grilled bread with a little manchego cheese and marcona almonds. Or another way to eat it is on a charcuterie platter with some capers, a nice sopressata, and a dark beer. Sounds like a pretty awesome dinner, right? I knew you’d agree. Now, go buy some dried fruit, and get cracking.