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Pickled Fruit Mostarda

Cremona mostarda is composed of pickled fruit immersed in glucose syrup aromatised with mustard. The more commonly used fruits, whether whole or in pieces are cherries, pears, clementines, figs, apricots, peaches, melons, plums, citrus fruits, pumpkins and water melons. The origin of Cremona Mostarda, as the name suggests, is traced to thepreparation based on grape must (mustum ardens) which, when cooked and concentrated, was consumed at its natural state with the addition of mustard. With the addition of must, fruit or vegetables, it could be preserved for a long time. This is why it gained remarkable success in the medieval and renaissance kitchens throughout Europe, where every effort was made to prevent the deterioration of foodstuffs. In the following centuries, the bond between mustard and must slackened, up to the achievement of the product we now know, and which had the same fundamental ingredients as the ones found in the final 19th century version. Since then the Cremona Mostarda has become the most popular in Italy. The intense aroma of its taste due to the mustard, fades with time, but does not modify the quality of the product which depends on the pickling method used. The Mantua mustard differs from that of Cremona in that it is produced exclusively with apples and pears. The apple or pear pickle is one of the most typical products of the Virgilian (Mantua)cuisine. The essential base for the filling of the pumpkin tortelli, the flagship of Mantuan cuisine, it appeared on the list of traditional agrifood products. The term “mustard, that identifies a spicy jam, derives from the Latin term mustum ardens, a spicy preparation in which crushed mustard seeds were used. Mustard was appropriately called moutarde in French and mustard in English, both terms deriving from the same Latin root. Mustard is historically linked to Mantua cuisine, initially as a lavish product. The first news in fact comes to us from the Gonzaga documents that testify to the presence of this preparation on the dining tables of the lords of Mantua. In those times the pharmacists were in charge of preparing this delicacy which, with jams and marmalades conserved in "albarelli" or small /medium glass or ceramic pots. As time passed, mustard lost its exclusiveness as a foodstuff, thanks to the increased availability of sugar and mustard, and became a popular ingredient, and was even matched to a poor product such as the pumpkin. As it often occurs, the recipe for the preparation of mustard varies from zone to zone and family to family. The base ingredients are unripe apples or pears (country pears or quince as preferred), sugar and liquid mustard. (Picture courtesy of the Food and Wine Roads Federation of Lombardy)