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Author Notes: Here’s a mustard based on two very old recipes, from two different very old European cities. The basic method is described in Maria Teresa Jorge’s Mostarda Mantovana, which goes back to about the 14th century in Mantova (Mantua), Italy. (That was where Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet" was set, for those of you trying to remember why it sounds familiar.) It’s not like most mustards we know, which are essentially mustard seed ground up and mixed with vinegar. The Mantuan variety is actually a fruit spread created over a period of four or five days, to which mustard flavor (in M.T. Jorge's case, mustard essence, but in ours in the U.S., mustard seeds) is then added. The inspiration for combining lemon, honey and aniseed with mustard comes from M.F.K. Fisher’s description, in an essay she wrote in the 1930’s, of a spice bread made in Dijon, where she was living at the time. Soft sweet apples work best in this. (I tried using the first tart apples of the season, but they did not break down enough. An early Golden Delicious apple turned out much better.) This mustard goes well not only with the foods you’d expect, but it’s also marvelous when used in a lemon vinaigrette. If you don’t want lumps in it, allow the dressing to sit in the lemon juice for at least several hours, then strain it, pushing through a fine mesh sieve before mixing with the oil. Please note that this recipe takes four days to make, though the amount of time spent on each day is minimal, after you’ve prepped and cooked the apples on the first day. The mustard tastes good but a bit raw, even two or three days after you’ve completed the cooking. It improves greatly with time, so let it rest for a week or two before serving. Enjoy!!
Makes 2 cups
- 2 cups of peeled, cored and thinly sliced sweet apples
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup dark honey + additional honey, to taste
- 3 two-inch strips of lemon peel (yellow part only)
- 4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (from Meyers, if you can get it)
- 2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
- 2 teaspoons whole aniseed (Optional, but please see note below.)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Place the apple slices and the lemon peel in a small heavy saucepan with about ½ cup of water. Bring the water to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Allow the mixture to simmer for about two minutes, then turn the heat off and put the cover on the pan. Let it sit for at least a few hours, then put the mixture into a flat storage box.
- Add the sugar and ¼ cup of honey and toss well. Cover and refrigerate. After five or six hours, or the next morning if that is more convenient, toss the mixture well and put it back in the refrigerator, covered.
- On the second day, pour off the liquid from the fruit, pick out and add the lemon peel strips to the saucepan, and reduce by half the syrup over a medium heat. Pour the syrup and peels over the fruit, cover the storage box, allow it to cool and then refrigerate.
- On the third day, do exactly what you did on the second day.
- On the fourth day, put the fruit and syrup into a heavy saucepan. Remove the lemon peel. (I eat the lemon peel at this point. It’s delicious.)
- Using a potato masher (one with small holes in it), mash the apples well, until the consistency of a rough, but not chunky, applesauce.
- Grind together to a medium powder the mustard seeds and aniseed, if using.
- Add the lemon juice, the remaining honey, the ground spices and the salt to the pan. Stir well.
- Heat and cook for about ten minutes over low heat, stirring frequently. Turn the heat off, cover, and allow it to cool at room temperature and then sit for about four or five hours from the time you finished cooking.
- Taste for salt and sweetness and correct, if necessary.
- If sealing for stable shelf storage, heat to a boil, then ladle into sterilized jars and follow the canning jar manufacturer’s instructions. And do follow them. The jar people know what they’re talking about, and you really don’t want to poison yourself and your friends with sloppy canning procedures.
- See my canning tips below, too, for more information.
- If not canning, cover and refrigerate. It should keep for at least 4 weeks or longer.
- N.B.: If you don’t like aniseed at all, you can leave them out. I do recommend that you try using them in this, even if you generally don’t care for them. The other flavors in this mustard transform the aniseed.
- CANNING TIP #1: Regardless of what other instructions you see in recipes posted in various places on the internet, make sure that you put your canning lids in simmering water (no hotter than 180 degrees) and that you keep them hot just until you use them. It's not enough simply to make sure they're clean. You put them in the hot water to soften the gasket (the rubber rim), which is essential to creating a good seal.
- CANNING TIP #2: A procedure I discovered (and have wondered how on earth it's taken so long, after all these years of canning, to figure out) is to use a large, towel-lined rectangular baking pan for moving jars to and from the hot water bath, to and from my workspace, and from the stove to the shelf where I cool the jars. Just make sure it's a pan you don't need to use for other things during the twenty-four hours that the jars are cooling. It's a really safe way to move hot jars, and is so efficient, too!!
- CANNING TIP #3: Here’s a tip about making condiments for gift giving. All condiments taste better after a few weeks or in some instances, after a month. Every batch will vary, regardless of how many times you’ve used the recipe, because the fruit will be different from year to year. I usually do my initial vacuum seal of condiments in pints or quarts, and then, in the weeks before the December holidays, I taste test the condiments again. If they are worthy of gift giving, I then reheat to boiling and re-seal and process the condiments in 4 or 8 ounce jars. You can also test and correct seasoning at this point.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Condiment
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