Formaggio Cambridge

For External Use Only

Usually when I taste something I like, I need to make it. To have more of it and to be able to “own” it. Such was the case with a mostarda I was lucky enough to taste at a Mark Vetri evening last year at Joe Beef. Mostarda is a fruit (or veggie)  conserve that combines the intense spice of mustard with the sweet flavors of candied fruit.  The artichokes were unreal. Sweet, nose clearing perfection.

Mostarda fruits

Essentially the recipe is:

1 lb. fruit or veggies such as quince, peeled + seeded squash, clementines…

1 2/3 c sugar

4 c water

¼ c liquid glucose or light corn syrup

And here is the interesting part: 2 drops essential oil of mustard, or 1 or 2 tsp pure mustard oil or mustard powder

I saw a magic bottle of essential oil of mustard at Joe Beef, up on a shelf and cloaked in mystery. You see, this stuff is basically liquid mustard gas! Apparently, there are a few pharmacies in Italy who sell the stuff (I can’t wait to go and ask for it in my horrendous Italian and see the look on the pharmacist’s face). But alas, I had to make do with “pure mustard oil”, which is almost as hard to track down.  I forayed into a dusty East Indian grocery to find a bottle.  The FDA and Canadian Food Inspection Agency require imported mustard seed oil to be labeled ‘for external use only,’ so this is the label on this bottle. As the spice expert Gernot Katzer says:

”Because of the erucic acid and maybe also the isothiocyanates, mustard oil is not a legal foodstuff in most western countries, including the EU and the USA, and it must not be sold as a cooking oil. Nevertheless, Indian food shops often sell mustard oil, but to circumvent these paternalistic laws, their mustard oil is labeled ”For external use only”. There is no need to take that remark seriously, although mustard oil does have cosmetic use in India (e.g. as hair balm).”

Unfortunately, the brand I bought was almost tasteless, and the mostarda was a non-event…I will give it another try after my next trip to Italy.  BUT WAIT – I found some pretty darn amazing mostarda on this side of the pond at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, MA. 

They have a great selection, including a quince paste (already yummy) mostarda. Break out your cheese or salumi….it is seriously mmmmm

Day 1 – toss the fruit/veggies with the sugar in a bowl and let sit overnight uncovered at room temperature.

Day 2 – put the fruit into a colander set over a bowl and rinse with some of the 4 c of water. Rinse the bowl with the rest of the water (you don’t want to throw any of it out). Set aside the fruit/veg. Add glucose / corn syrup to the liquid and boil until you get 220 degrees F (attach a candy thermometer to the pot).  Add the fruits and reheat to 220 F. Immediately remove from heat and let stand uncovered overnight at room temperature.

Day 3 – drain the fruits/veg and boil the liquid over high until it reaches 222 F for 10 – 15 minutes. Return the fruits and heat until you get back to 222F. Immediately remove from heat and let stand uncovered overnight at room temperature.

Day 4 – do it again to 224F

Day 5 – same thing to 226F. Once cooled to room temperature the fruits/veg should be soft and covered with syrup. Stir in the mustard oil. If using powder, first stir it into ¼ c of the syrup and heat them until powder dissolves. Add back into rest of syrup

It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Please tell me if you make it.  I want to hear the story