fichi d'India e mosto
Sicilian mostarda differs from those of central and northern Italy since it’s more like a sweet solid jam.
One of the most traditional mostarda is made with prickly pear, a cactus fruit which, together with the olive and the carob tree, characterise the Sicilian landscape. Originally from Northern Africa, it was brought to the Island by the Arabs. The plants and trees begin to blossom in spring, however the bright yellow, orange or fuchsia coloured fruit will only ripen in September.
Here is the recipe:
Crush the prickly pears and boil the pulp. For every litre of pulp add 100 gr. corn starch, stir while cooking until dense. Take off the heat and leave to cool. When cool sprinkle with ground almonds or pistachio nuts and cinnamon and place in a dampened mould. Leave in the sun to dry for 2-4 days, then preserve in jars filled with a few dried laurel leaves.
Another traditional mostarda is made with the freshly pressed grape juice and is prepared during the grape harvest.
I still remember many days spent at my uncl’s vineyard, the hot amber-coloured sun, chicken and potatoes for lunch – a really light lunch, wouldn’t you say!? – and then the mostarda, just made with the must. Before writing the recipe, allow me another mouth-watering memory from my past: rabbit cooked in must wine, a dish which was both sweet and deep red in colour. Especially the unbeatable one made by my grandmother Concetta.
Here is the recipe:
Boil 7 litres of must for 10 minutes, leave to cool and add 100 gr. of white ash- from the wood of the olive or carob trees to reduce the acidic taste and any bacteria. Stir and leave 24 hours to rest. Then the must should have become clear and the ash should have sedimented at the bottom. Filter and boil. Meanwhile, emulsify a litre of must with 800 gr. of corn starch; mix it with the rest of the remaining must, a little at a time, just before it starts to boil.
Continue stirring and keep checking it by pouring some drops of mixture on a saucer with a little water: if the mixture does not become dense it still is’t ready, if it becomes thick i’s ready!
Remove from heat, add 2 kg. of whole toasted almonds, the powder from a whole stick of cinnamon, two sachets of vanilla and mix everything thoroughly. You could eat it at room temperature, or preserve in dampened moulds and leave to set as with the prickly pear mostarda.