Mostarda di frutta is a most unusual Italian condiment. It is made most famously in Cremona (and is sometimes known as mostarda di Cremona), though I first tasted it much further south, at a restaurant in Siena that offered three varieties at the table.
The flavor of mostarda is a complex mixture of sweet and sour, fruity and pungent. It is traditionally served with blander boiled meats, but it also pairs well in small amounts as part of a cheese course (or an upscale grilled cheese sandwich). I would venture to say that if you find sweet pickles awful, this isn't for you, but if you like relishy stuff, you'll probably love it.
Modern chefs have taken this basic idea of mostarda and applied it to any condiment incorporating fruit, sugar and mustard. The recipe I'm offering you today is definitely not traditional. I'm using a single fruit (apricot), and cooking it down almost to a jam instead of keeping it in larger pieces. Sweet onion provides the structure and snap.
If you have mustard oil on hand (possibly from Indian cooking), you can use that, but I substituted a prepared Dijon mustard. The effect isn't quite the same but I think it is delicious on its own merits.
If you aren't inclined to make your own, but want to taste mostarda, here are a plethora of options on Amazon.
Apricot and Sweet Onion Mostarda
Yields about 1 cup
Vegetarian, vegan, and potentially gluten-free (be sure and check the pre-prepared ingredients)
- 5 large or 8 small apricots (about 400 grams total)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- dash Tabasco
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds and 1 teaspoon fennel seeds ground in a mortar and pestle
- 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1/2 sweet (Maui, Vidalia, Walla Walla, etc.) onion, finely diced
- Combine all of the ingredients except the onion in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, adding a little water as needed. Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Take off the heat and puree (using an immersion blender if you have one). Strain through a coarse sieve to remove the apricot skins.
- Return the puree to the cleaned pot, and add the finely diced onion. Simmer about 15 more minutes until quite thick (remembering that it will thicken a bit more when it cools; you want the end result to be something like a pickle relish).
- Taste and adjust seasonings to give a nice balance of fruity, sweet, sour and piquant/mustardy.