A Winter Mostarda
Like a Jamesian heroine on her first European visit, a plain New England compote surrenders its innocence to wine and spices, then accomplishes the complex and sophisticated decadence of an Italian treasure.
Serve with assorted cheeses, salumi, smoked fish, or even a boiled dinner.
4 dried figs, stemmed and cut into 4 to 6 pieces each
2 cups of other dried fruit, perhaps golden raisins, dried apples, dried apricots, dried cherries, dried cranberries, or other favorites. Try to pick 4 types, balancing light and dark colors, and use ½ cup of each. Cut any larger slices into smaller pieces so they don’t bully the dried berries and raisins, etc.
1 very firm pear, peeled, cored, and cubed into ½ inch pieces
3 1/2 cups of dry white wine
2 1/2 cups of sugar
1 generous tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1/2 cup of Colman’s Mustard Powder
1/4 cup of mixed white and brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons of hot red pepper flakes, more to taste
1. Pour all the fruit into a fair-sized saucepan and stir until mixed.
2. Add the wine to the fruit over medium heat and bring to boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 30 minutes or so until the wine is reduced to about a cup. Stir often and take care that fruit doesn’t scorch.
3. While mixture simmers, stir vinegar into mustard powder to dissolve powder. Add more vinegar if needed to form thick paste.
4. Remove the pan from the heat, then add the sugar, mustard powder paste, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes. Stir rapidly to dissolve all the sugar.
5. Pour mostarda into nonreactive bowl to cool, then cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
6. Divide mostarda into pretty containers and refrigerate. It lasts for weeks. Golden bowl optional.