Mantuan mostarda

Mostarda is a preserve made with candied fruit, flavoured with mustard essential oil. It is usually served with meat or cheese, to enhance their flavour. The term mostarda, from the Latin mustum ardens (literally burning must), anticipates its typically spicy flavour. In ancient times, it was made with grape must and ground mustard seeds, hence the name.

 We know for certain that mostarda was prepared and served at the court of the Gonzaga family, who ruled Mantua, as early as the fourteenth century. It is still consumed during the traditional Sunday lunch in the northern regions of Italy, mainly in autumn and winter and during the Christmas season. Many are its local varieties. With its small slices of fruit, the delicious Mantuan mostarda, differs, in fact, both from Cremonese mostarda - made with whole fruit – and from mostarda vicentina - made with finely minced pieces of fruit. Nowadays mostarda is available in many different flavours made from any type of fruit and also vegetables, but the best-known and most popular one is quince mostarda. Here's the recipe!

12 drops of mustard essential oil (at a chemist’s or at a herbalist’s)
1.1 lbs. of sugar
2.2 lbs. of unripe quinces
1 lemon

Peel and cut the quinces into thin slices and put them into a bowl. Pour the sugar and the lemon juice, stir and let them stand for 24 hours. After that, collect the liquid that will have formed, pour it into a pan and cook over low heat for about twenty minutes, so that it curdles. Pour it over the quinces, while it is still hot. Repeat the operation: let the quinces stand for 24 hours, separate the liquid, cook it for about twenty minutes and pour over the quinces. Let them rest for another 24 hours and cook the apples and the liquid together for about 5 minutes. Once the quinces will have cooled down, add 12-14 drops of mustard essential oil. The number of drops depends on how spicy you want your mostarda. Mix gently, pour into sterilized glass jars and let your quince mostarda rest in a dark, dry place for at least a month.

A tip... and a recommendation ...
If you are unable to find quinces, you can replace them with any variety of pippin apples.
Please beware: mustard essential oil irritates the eyes and respiratory system. Use it with caution!