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Mostarda in various forms appears all over Italy. It is an "agrodolce" relish (bittersweet, or sweet and sour), most commonly made from fruit, fresh, dried, or candied — quince, pears, apples, even grape must, and mixed with wine and mustard. La Cucina Italiana published a short informative article on the history of mostarda, which apparently was a favorite of Catherine de Medici, who included a jar in her dowry trunk when she travelled to France to marry the son of the king in 1533.
I've made different variations of mostarda on several occasions. Mostarda is customarily served in the fall, often paired with boiled meats. Once I made a batch, I found plenty of ways to use it — you could serve it with grilled or roasted chicken or pork, include it in an antipasti platter, serve it with some great cheeses, or grill some radicchio and brush some on just before serving. Here, I've created a version using native Maine cranberries from Ricker Hill Orchards, perfect for your Thanksgiving table.
See all cranberry recipes.
- 12 Ounces fresh cranberries
- 1/4 Cup dried apricots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1/4 Cup Craisins, chopped
- 1/4 Cup candied orange peel, chopped
- 1/4 Cup candied lemon peel, chopped
- 1/2 Cup Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 Cup red wine
- 1/4 Cup honey
- 1 1/2 Teaspoon mustard powder
Unlike its sweeter cousin marmaletta, mostarda lends itself to a larger spectrum of savory foods and preparations. You can use this sweet-sour-spicy jam as a condiment for a richly flavored sandwich, or as a new version of cranberry sauce for the holidays. It would rock on a cheese board or even to enhance takeout foods that may be lacking—it’s especially nice on leftover cold meats. A classic Italian sauce using the most New England of ingredients, perfect for the winter months.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 pints fresh cranberries
½ cup whisky
2 shallots, minced
¼ cup red wine vinegar or raspberry vinegar
¼ cup yellow mustard seeds
zest of 2 lemons
¼ cup olive oil
Combine water and sugar in a high-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. After 2 minutes of boiling, it will begin to crystalize and then about 2 minutes later it will start to turn a light caramel color. Once the caramel is completely brown, add the cranberries, carefully pouring them away from yourself so as not to burn yourself with the hot sugar.
Keep heat on high for 30 seconds. Turn the heat down to medium, add whisky and shallot and cook for 5 more minutes. Add vinegar and mustard seeds and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, on medium-low heat.
Reduce the heat to low and cook for another 2 minutes, until the mixture is jammy but not overly thick. Remove from the heat to stop the cooking and transfer mixture to a wide heat-proof container, such as a Pyrex. Once the mostarda cools to room temperature, stir in lemon zest and olive oil and stir until combined.
Transfer to a lidded jar and refrigerate keeps about 2 weeks.
This recipe appeared in the Winter 2021 issue as part of a larger story on Preserving, Italian-Style.
Polenta Squares with Cranberry Mostarda
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Mostarda is a fruity Italian condiment that’s somewhat like chutney. You can prepare the Mostarda and the Polenta Squares up to two days ahead, then sauté Polenta Squares and top with Mostarda just before serving.
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 11/2 cups frozen cranberries (do not thaw)
- 3/4 cup chopped red onion
- 11/2 Tbs. apricot preserves
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 4 tsp. prepared English mustard, plus more for serving
- 1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1. To make Mostarda: Bring sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil in medium saucepan. Add cranberries, reduce heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes, or until cranberry skins split. Transfer cranberries to plate with slotted spoon. Add onion, apricot preserves, and red pepper flakes to pan reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes. Return cranberries to pan, cook 8 minutes more, or until mixture is thick, stirring often. Cool, then stir in mustard and vinegar. Cover, and chill.
2. To make Polenta Squares: Line baking sheet with foil. Purée corn and 1/2 cup water in blender until smooth. Pour into large saucepan with 3 cups water and 1 tsp. salt, if desired. Bring to boil. Gradually add polenta cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Cook and stir 18 minutes, or until very thick.
3. Scrape polenta onto foil in mound. Let rest 1 minute. Spread polenta to 7 1/2-inch square with metal spatula. (Use a ruler to make straight edges.) Cool, then cover with plastic wrap. Chill 2 hours (or up to 2 days), until firm. Cut polenta into 25 1 1/2-inch squares.
4. Coat large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Cook Polenta Squares in batches over medium-high heat 4 minutes per side, or until lightly browned.
5. Spread prepared mustard on each square. Top each with 1 tsp. Mostarda, and sprinkle with green onions (if using).
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- 1 lb fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup cane sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seed
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (or ½ teaspoon pumpkin spice)
- 1/2 Tablespoon orange zest
- 1 orange, juiced
- 1/2 Tablespoon Grannie’s Horseradish Mustard
Over a high heat flame, char the cranberries until the skins begin to blacken and burst open. You can do this with either a torch over a sheet pan or in a fry basket over high flame on a grill.
Combine all the remaining ingredients with the charred cranberries in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook down until the cranberries are softened and burst open easily. This won’t take longer than ten minutes. Serve warm or cooled. This also makes a great condiment for leftover turkey sandwiches.
Brown Butter Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with Cranberry Mostarda
If you’re cooking for a smaller group of people, this brown butter herb roasted turkey breast is for you! It’s easier and quicker than cooking a whole bird, but still comes out juicy and delicious. I’m serving it with the most flavorful cranberry mostarda for something new and exciting. Trust me, this recipe will be the complete star at your Thanksgiving table!
Brown butter herb roasted turkey breast – the details
We are SO close to Thanksgiving, and I wanted to pop in to share this herb roasted turkey breast recipe. While we usually cook a whole bird (or two) each year, I love making a roasted turkey breast in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving or even the weekend after. It’s a great way to enjoy a smaller-scale Thanksgiving meal with all the same delicious holiday flavors.
You’ll want to buy a bone-in turkey breast for this recipe. Roasting it with the bone in is the best way to get a juicy, tender finished product. You’ll smother the turkey in softened butter and top it with lots of salt and freshly chopped hearty herbs. The turkey will roast at a higher temperature to start in order to kickstart the browning process, then it’ll slowly roast at a lower temperature until done.
Use a meat thermometer to check the bird as it gets closer to being finished to make sure you don’t overcook it. You’re looking for an internal temperature of about 160F. The bird will continue to “cook” as it rests before slicing to reach 165F.
I’m serving the herb roasted turkey breast with a really simple herby brown butter sauce instead of your typical gravy. It’s simpler and adds just the right amount of buttery, nutty flavor to the bird. Truly, it’s all you need.
Alongside, switching things up with a cranberry mostarda. This tangy, juicy, ruby red condiment is the PERFECT sweet counterpart to the turkey. It’s a fun alternative to your regular cranberry sauce that is just beyond delicious and again, simple to make.
If you’re feeling like doing a whole bird, you can find my whole roasted turkey recipe here. It’s complete with a pan gravy and a luscious spiced orange cranberry sauce!
Whatever you do, make sure to relax and really just enjoy the entire holiday with those around you! I cannot wait! Stay tuned for a few more recipes coming your way for the big day!
Cranberry Mostarda and Torta di Mele e Mostarda – Italian Inspired Cranberry Sauce
Our culinary adventures in Italy always inspire my cooking back home in the US. I recently have been playing around with some versions of mostarda, a sweet and sour relish, most commonly made from fruit, fresh, dried or candied – quince, pears, apples, even grape must, and mixed with wine and mustard. I had a delicious antipasti on my last cycling tour that included mostarda paired with goat cheese, but mostarda is customarily paired with boiled meats.
An on-line food magazine I write for, The Daily Meal, was looking for recipes for Thanksgiving side dishes, specifically cranberry. What new version could I supply – of course, a cranberry mostarda!
Mustard isn’t a common ingredient in your traditional cranberry sauces. But the combination works, and makes a great foil to the turkey. I recall a trip I made once with Chef Jody Adams, where she was invited to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for a group of journalists in Paris. I got to tag along, and as the turkey arrived, complete with carefully matched side dishes of gravy, dressing, potatoes, cranberries and vegetables, each and every Parisian reached for the dijon mustard in the center of the table. Apparently no one in France eats turkey without mustard!
This will be on our table this Thanksgiving, as well as on our turkey sandwiches the next day instead of mayonnaise. And I’ve also added a couple of spoonfuls to an apple pie for a version of Torte di Mele e Mostarda, a traditional Veneto dessert recipe.
Makes approximately 2 cups
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1/4 cup dried apricots, cut into 1/4” pieces
1/4 cup craisins, chopped
1/4 cup candied orange peel, chopped
1/4 cup candied lemon peel, chopped
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups red wine
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder or 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
Place all ingredients in a large saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer, and cook over low heat until softened and thick, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool.
Advance prep: This is better after sitting for a day or so to let the flavors blend, so make a day or two ahead!
Pie filling with mostarda
Torta di Mele e Mostarda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, very cold and cut into pieces
1 large egg, beaten
4-6 tablespoons cold water
6-8 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/4 cup cranberry mostarda
Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to combine.
Add the butter pieces, and pulse just until the mixture is a coarse meal, with small pea size pieces of butter.
Add the egg, and pulse to combine.
Add the cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing to combine. After each addition, pinch the crumbly mixture. When it holds together, it is done. If it doesn’t, add more water.
Remove the dough from the food processor, and place on the counter. Using the heel of your hand, smear the dough mixture across the counter, to flatten the butter into layers. Do this a few times, then shape the dough mixture into two discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Remove one disk from the refrigerator, and allow it to sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes in order to soften. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle. As you roll out the dough, keep checking to make sure the dough is not sticking to the counter. If it is, sprinkle underneath with flour. Carefully place onto a 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the pie dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Trim the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the pie dish.
Place the apples in a large bowl. Add the mostarda, and gently combine.
Roll out second disk of dough, just as you did the first one. Gently place onto the top of the filling in the pie. Pinch together the top and bottom of dough rounds. Trim, leaving a 3/4 inch overhang. Fold the edge of the top over and under the edge of the bottom crust, pressing together. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with a fork.
Using a knife, cut several 2-inch long slits in the top crust, so that steam from the cooking pie can escape. Place the pie pan on a sheet pan (this protects your oven from any overflow) and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.
A pretty addition to a cheese board or even the Thanksgiving table, mostarda is an Italian condiment made with wine, vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, and usually some fruit and/or fruit juice—this version uses cranberry juice and dried cranberries. Start the recipe the night before by popping open a bottle of white wine and pouring ¾ cup to soak the mustard seeds.
2½ tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
¾ cup dry white wine
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup Champagne vinegar
¾ cup pure cranberry juice (not concentrate or cocktail)
1 tablespoon dry mustard powder (Colman’s brand in the yellow tin)
2 cups dried cranberries
Zest from ½ orange
Soak the mustard seeds in the wine overnight at room temperature. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the soaked mustard seeds and wine, sugar, vinegar, cranberry juice, and mustard powder. Set pan over mediumhigh heat, bring to boil and lower heat to maintain a moderate simmer. Cook without stirring until thickened and the syrup coats the back of a spoon, about 25–30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the dried cranberries and orange zest. Let cool, then store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Cranberry Mostarda
Crispy roasted Brussels sprouts are always a hit (and nutritious). This lemon cranberry mostarda hits Brussels sprouts with a hit of acid and brightness. In the spirit of practicality, I’ve adjusted the original recipe to be a little less fussy and quicker to do (and less sugar). It also keeps in the fridge for up to a month, so make this big batch and use throughout the month as a way to brighten up other vegetables- I imagine this would be great on roasted sweet potatoes or broccoli. I’ll let you know what I end up doing with the leftovers I have waiting in my fridge for me.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Cranberry Mostarda
Adapted from Bon Appetit
3 pounds Brussels sprouts
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 ounce fresh cranberries
1/2 cup dried apricots (90g)
1/2 tablespoon whiskey or brandy
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard powder
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Peel lemon peel off using a vegetable peeler and place into food processor. Cut out lemon segments just like you would a grapefruit or orange- be sure to not include the white pith or any seeds. I like to use a small yet sharp knife to do this. They don’t have to be pretty or perfect, since they’re going right into the food processor (see above for my pic of the zest and segments). Set aside.
Put lemon zest and sugar in food processor and process for about 15 seconds, until well mixed (see below for pic). Add in fresh cranberries and dried apricots in food processor and pulse until cranberries are chopped- the first time I did this, I ran it for a bit too long instead of pulsing, and wish it was a little coarser than it was.
By hand, mix in whiskey, sea salt, mustard powder, mustard seeds, red wine vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. Set aside or store in fridge.
Preheat oven to 425. Toss Brussels sprouts in olive oil, sea salt, and pepper and roast on the bottom rack for 18 minutes, until browned. Toss lightly and if browned, move to middle rack for an addition 5-10 more minutes, until tender. If they are still not very brown, keep them on the bottom rack.
Hands down, my favorite cranberry sauce for 20 years. Totally adjustable for taste. I like a generous amount of dijon, especially for leftover sandwiches.
I have been making this recipe every year for 18 years now! It is the best, so delicious and mysterious, no one can guess what makes it so good. Only one thing - it takes forever to take the thyme leaves off the stem without the tiny little stem attached to each leaf, which is noticeable in the sauce if you leave those tiny stems on . I wonder the best way to get around this.
seriously delicious. i can't stop eating it. i was leery of the combination of flavors, but it really works. (to the person who thought there was too much thyme, did you use fresh or dried. a tablespoon of dried would be too much, but with the fresh thyme, it was perfect.)
Too much thyme! If I try this again I will reduce or eliminate the thyme entirely.
An interesting twist on a traditional sauce - I cut the sugar in half so it had more of a savory taste.
Best cranberry sauce ever. I do add just slightly more mustard, otherwise the recipe is perfect. Great on sandwiches the next day as well. This is our new Thanksgving staple.
This is fantastic. I have made it every year since ➘. One exception is that I make it with rosemary. I like the fresh taste of rosemary. I may one day try it with sage.
Fantastic sauce. This was a hit with adults and even a few of the kids. It's on my permanent list!
Loved the simplicity of this recipe and it's just different enough from other cranberry sauce standards to be a standout. It's my new favorite.
This was a surprise hit. The thyme is a vibrant presence, the mustard a more subtle one. Definitely a keeper.
I have been making this cranberry sauce every year since 1998. it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it!
This is my 7th year making this cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving! I think I will double the recipe for leftover sandwiches this year as there is never an ounce left. Hint: Garnish with fresh thyme to add a flair to your presentation.
Of the trio of sauces I took along to a friend's Thanksgiving feast, this was the biggest hit. Wonderful mix of flavours (used about 1/4 c less sugar, we like the wang of cranberries). I had to make a second batch - the first disappeared in a series of taste tests before Thanksgiving Day.
This is the third year I will be making this sauce. So quick to make and delicious! Happy Thanksgiving!
Absolutely wonderful cranberry sauce. I have made it twice, and it has knocked our usual family cranberry sauce right off the list permanently. Use fresh thyme--well worth it.
This was quick and delicious - definitely more interesting than the normal cranberry sauce, and fantastic on turkey sandwiches.
Easy, quick, elegant, delicious. I've been making this for six years, but I forgot to bring the recipe with me while travelling. Hooray for epicurious.com!
I had never made cranberry sauce before and one Thanksgiving I was asked to bring it and had no idea what to do. I tried this one and it was a huge hit! Moreover, it continues to be a hit year after year when I bring it to various dinner gatherings.
This will be the 3rd year in a row that I'm making this cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. I love that it's not sweet, so many cranberry sauces ruin the tartness by adding too much sugar. Absolutely divine.