Friday, March 13, 2009

Mostarda di Rogue Valley

The signs that spring has sprung are everywhere out here in Southern Oregon. The warm sun melts the frosting-like snow glazing the Syskiyous. Knock kneed calves suckle from their momma’s teets and wobble around the pastures as though they’re on stilts, baby lambs and kids graze on the fresh green grass, pregnant buds are ready to burst forth from the trees. But it’s March, a typically fickle month almost anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere and tomorrow it might just snow. But I know spring is just about here and before long the farmers markets will be bursting with the Rogue Valley’s bounty. And I can’t wait…

I’ve decided to stick around for a while. Jessie, my Caribbean cheese making friend, and I have moved into a great little house right in the heart of downtown Ashland. Our humble little abode is just a few blocks from the Ashland Food Co-op, farmers market and the food mecca that is downtown. And, since I’m not working 100-hours a week, I feel like I’m practically on vacation – and Jessie and I are getting into plenty of trouble in the kitchen.

As I write this, Jessie is patiently stirring a pot of whole milk, bringing it up to temperature for a batch of lemon-blood orange farmers cheese to pair with the homemade mostarda jam and blood orange marmalade that I just made today, and the loaf of rye bread that’ll be ready to bake off tomorrow. Jessie’s being a little mopey though, I think she’s disappointed that she didn’t get to milk the cows herself, but desperate times call for desperate measures and we were having a cheese making attack so we settled for an $8.00 per 1/2 gallon bottle of Straus Family Creamery Organic Whole Milk. If you have to buy pasteurized milk from the grocery store for home cheese making, Straus is definitely the way to go (but ouch, what a price tag!). She did find a source for raw cows milk, but it’s a ways from here – so we may go pick some up after hitting the Grants Pass farmers market this weekend. Jess has promised that we would make fresh mozzerella together. Life back on land has its adjustments…

Blood Orange Marmalade

Mostarda is a traditional condiment served with bollito misto (boiled meats) in Northern Italy. It’s made from several types of fresh or dried fruit that’s been almost candied in a combination of wine, mustard essence (sold at pharmacies in Italy, it’s so pungent it will literally burn your sinuses out if you smell it) and sugar. Sweet, pungent and spicy? sounds like chutney to me! What’s not to love? I’m not even sure when it was that I first tried mostarda, but I’ve been thinking about it for years now – and, oh, where would I be without Google?

I read several recipes for mostarda and decided to use Mario Battali's recipe for Mostarda di Cremona as my jumping off point. It is full of wonderful dried fruit; figs, apples, cherries, and apricots as well as prepared mustard and mustard seeds and lots of red wine. The recipe called for “prepared mustard”. Ever walk into a store and see a jar that just says “prepared mustard”? There are about 300 different mustards at my local Shop&Kart! So, I went for the Dijon, and a bottle of Nero D’avola wine. But the mostarda turned out too runny (which could have to do with the fact that I'm eagerly awaiting the moving truck from NYC with all of my cookbooks, cooking gadgets, etc. and don't even have a measuring cup at the moment) and I couldn’t imagine the dried fruit would really absorb all of the liquid it was sitting in. So I decided to cook the concoction down a bit, which made the sauce velvety and rich and softened the dried fruit, and then I added just a small amount of pectin.

Now that it’s jelled, it’s turned into a deep purple, deliciously winey jam with a nice, pungent bite from the mustard, lush and sweet from the chunks of dried fruit and a fresh bite here and there from the addition of a very under-ripe pear (as the original recipe specified). Ok, it's a break from tradition - but wow, is it ever good! The mostarda would be heaven with Jessie’s camembert or even one of the great blue’s she’s whipped up – except that I think I’ve eaten it all. Oops. I guess I’ll have to settle for the Finocchiona sausage from Salumi Salami in Seattle, and the fresh farmers curds we're making right now. I can’t wait to attempt a fresh fruit mostarda when the stone fruits start hitting the farm stands in the summer but I’ll have to find someone who can smuggle me the mustard essential oils from Italy. Mmmm, so many good things await…

Mostarda Jam di Rogue Valley
Adapted from Mostarda di Cremona by Mario Batali

Ingredients (this makes a big batch!)

8 dried mission figs, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 unripe pear, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup dried Turkish apricots, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup sundried cherries
1 cup dried apples, cut into 1/4 inch julienne
3 cups sugar
3 cups dry red wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup mustard seeds
1/2 packet of Pomona’s Universal Pectin combined with monocalcium phosphate (included in the pectin box) and water (per directions)


In a saucepan, heat sugar and wine together until boiling. Lower heat and stir in mustard and seeds and add figs, pear, apricots, cherries, apples and pectin. Simmer gently until dried fruit just begins to soften and is beginning to plump,10 to 15 minutes. Add vinegar. Test jell by chilling a spoon in the freezer then drip a small amount of jam onto the cold spoon – it should jell, and will continue to thicken as it cools. Carefully ladle into sterilized 8 oz. jars and close. Allow to sit out overnight, refrigerate the next day (or eat!).


Victoria Allman said...

Yum! That sounds awesome. I'm going to make some tomorrow on watch to have with the manchego here. Thanks for the idea!

prcrstn8 said...

Blood orange marmalade ... yow. I'll be right over.

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