Mostarda Mantovana

September 23, 2017

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: The most famous mostarde come from Lombardy in Italy's north: from Cremona, where whole, mixed fruits are candied, spiced and eaten with boiled meats; and Mantova (Mantua), where spiced, barely-cooked quince or apple is eaten with cheeses. Mostarda mantovana, has been made essentially the same way for centuries. I recently met with Italian restauranteur, Anna Maria Eoclidi, whose restaurant, Pasta Emilia (http://emilia.com.au/), is a little gem of northern Italy in Sydney, Australia—this is more or less how she recounted her aunt's recipe to me, except that her aunt uses apples rather than the more old fashioned quince. (I prefer quince for its color, but as they are so seasonal, apples are easier to come by.) When choosing fruit for this recipe, always go for slightly less ripe fruit.

In Italy, the mustard essence (not to be confused with mustard oil) is bought in a pharmacy, not a food store. It comes in a tiny bottle and is sold by the drop—you only need about 12 potent drops per kilogram of cooked fruit—and not without reason does the bottle have a skull and crossbones on it. It's an extremely dangerous, volatile essence when not used carefully. You must use it in a well-ventilated place, and just by looking at it, you'll feel your eyes burn and your nose tingle. Luckily those few drops go a long way and, rather like the prized scent of truffles, it must be treated carefully. Place it in the fruit only once cooled, then close the jars right away. You can begin eating the mostarda immediately but don't wait too long—about 6 months after bottling, the distinct, intense mustard scent begins to lose its punch.

While this recipe is a 4-day process, the active time is a scant 30 minutes.

Outside of Italy, it is probably difficult, if not impossible, to find. But there are other ways to replicate a similar mostarda (and perhaps you can save the real deal experience for your next trip to Italy). You can do a similar thing by using mustard powder and warmed white wine or dessert wine in place of the mustard essence. Here on Food52, contributor Maria Teresa Jorge uses 2 ounces of white mustard powder diluted in 1/4 cup of vinegar to replace 10 drops of mustard essence (https://food52.com/recipes...), and we even have a no-recipe guide for the condiment (https://food52.com/blog...).

Featured in: The Italian Condiment Your Cheese Plate Needs Pronto.
Emiko

Makes: 25 ounces

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (1 kg) quince (or apples), on the underripe side
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced (optional)
  • mustard essence, as needed (10-20 drops per kilogram of cooked fruit)
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. Day one: Peel and finely chop the fruit. Place in a non-reactive bowl with the sugar and lemon slices (if using) and toss until well-combined. Leave to sit in a cool place to macerate for 24 hours.
  2. Day two: Strain the liquid created by the fruit into a small saucepan. Return the fruit to the bowl. Bring the liquid to a rapid boil, cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour the liquid over the fruit. Let cool, then cover and let sit in a cool place for another 24 hours.
  3. Day three: Strain off the liquid again, into a saucepan. Return the fruit to the bowl. Bring the liquid, which should be more syrupy now, to the boil and cook 5 minutes. Pour it back over the fruit. Let cool, then cover and let sit in a cool place for 24 hours.
  4. Day four: Place the fruit and its syrup in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and let cook, turning the fruit with a wooden spoon to cook it evenly, for about 10 minutes (if there is not enough liquid left to cook the fruit through, add a splash of water to help it along). The fruit should still have some bite to it, it should keep its shape, but be evenly cooked. It should all be held together with a light syrup.
  5. Let it cool completely, then, weigh the fruit (you do need scales for this! In my experience with this recipe, it produces about 750 grams of cooked fruit, so 3/4 of a kilogram). In a well-ventilated area, open the bottle of mustard essence (do not put your face close to it or try to sniff it directly and do not try to taste it or get it on your skin!) and carefully add 10-20 drops of mustard essence per kilogram of fruit or to taste—10 drops will produce a mildy spiced mostarda, 20 is not for the faint hearted! I would recommend 10-12 drops per kilogram (so 8-9 drops for 3/4 of a kilogram of cooked fruit). Bottle in sterilised jars and, if not planning on eating within the month, process the cans to seal. This is best consumed within six months as the mustard essence begins to weaken significantly after this time, even if unopened. As the essence diminishes with heat, it is best to keep the mostarda somewhere cool.

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Condiment/Spread|Fruit|Mustard|Make Ahead|5 Ingredients or Fewer|Winter|Christmas|Fall|Vegetarian|Vegan

Reviews (5) Questions (0)

5 Reviews

Sandra October 25, 2017
I just made this! It's divine! Thank you, Emiko and Antonia! I found the end product, a tad too sweet for me, though. It could also use more pep/zing, so next time I will try Antonia's suggestion for horseradish. I used dry mustard and black and yellow mustard seeds. I liked the texture of the quince, it was still a little chewy.
 
Author Comment
Emiko November 1, 2017
So great to hear this Sandra, thanks for the feedback. I think, if one wanted to, the sugar could be reduced a tiny bit (for example if using particularly sweet fruit), but keeping in mind that the sugar helps to conserve the fruit, too. When balanced with the mustard, it should work out very nicely -- the horseradish probably has more of a similar nose-tingling effect to the mustard essence too!
 
AntoniaJames October 2, 2017
The last time I made this - https://food52.com/recipes/27134-sour-cherry-and-cranberry-mostarda - I used a prepared horseradish mustard, which worked quite well; it boosted the heat level perfectly. (I used only half the dry powder.) I also have been adding a touch of raw fruit shortly before serving, as it brightens the flavor and adds some texture, too. I realize that it takes the mostarda even farther from the traditional, but I do like it. ;o)
 
Author Comment
Emiko October 3, 2017
Hi Antonia! I actually linked to your (non) recipe post for Mostarda in the full article that accompanied this recipe! https://food52.com/blog/20564-what-is-mostarda-and-how-to-make-it It's a great alternative for those who can't get the essenza di senape!
 
Sue September 28, 2017
I can’t wait to try this. I have 1/2 tonne of quince so no shortage to test with. I have searched online where I can buy the mustard essence. I have found some via eBay but not sure if it’s the real thing but they come recommended from other cooks. I’ll kerp you posted