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Thursday, May 13, 2010 12:17 am

Rhubarb mostarda

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Mostarda – sometimes called Mostarda di frutta – is a classic Italian condiment. It is somewhat like a chutney in that it combines fruit and a savory element. In mostardas that element is mustard. It’s a traditional accompaniment to Bollito Misto (mixed boil), a wintertime dish of an assortment of boiled meats; more recently it’s also being used with cheeses. There are many different versions, some that are regional specialties such as Mostarda di Cremorna (the most famous), Mostarda di Bolognese and Mostarda di Siciliana. Some are made with dried fruits, some with candied fruits, and some with fresh fruit. Pears, quinces, cherries, apricots, figs and peaches are used in Italian mostardas, either singly or in combination. Sometimes the fruit is left whole, or cut into large pieces, other times it is chopped fine.

I created this riff on mostarda after reading one for a cranberry version made by Mario Batali. Italian mostardas contain wine vinegar – red or white, depending on the fruits used – to add a tart note, but both rhubarb and cranberries add enough tartness on their own. Rhubarb mostarda is sweet, tart and spicy; and the mustard seeds provide a textural pop to the smooth sauce. It’s wonderful with pork chops, smoked or au naturel, cheeses, and makes a killer turkey, ham, or cheese sandwich. 

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 ½ c. water, divided
  • 1 ¼ lb. trimmed rhubarb stalks, cut into ½ pieces
  • 3 T. dry mustard, preferably Colman’s
  • 2 T. mustard seeds, black, brown or yellow
  • ½ - 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper (if using black or brown mustard seeds, use black pepper, for yellow seeds, use white pepper)
  • ¼ tsp. Kosher salt, optional

Combine the sugar and two cups of the water in a large heavy-bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Add the rhubarb and cook over high heat, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

While the rhubarb is cooking, whisk the mustard powder and remaining half cup of water in a small bowl until it is smooth, then stir it into the mustard seeds, salt and pepper to the pan.

Cook, uncovered, until the mixture is thick and syrupy. If cooked at a slow boil, this will take about 20 minutes, and must be stirred constantly. Alternatively, reduce the heat to a simmer. This will take longer – about twice as long – but the mixture only needs to be stirred occasionally. Whether it’s cooked at high heat or low, be careful: as the mostarda nears completion, it can easily scorch and burn on the bottom. Remove from the heat and cool completely. It will keep, refrigerated in a tightly sealed container, for several weeks. Makes about 3 cups.

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