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Italian Mustard

Italian Mustard

Mustard is a preparation based on preserves of one or more types of fruit treated, according to the recipes, with sugar or honey, must or mustard, typical of northern Italy.

Origins and History –
This culinary preparation widespread especially in northern Italy and Tuscany is made with different ingredients, also according to the area of ​​origin.
The term “mustum ardens” appears for the first time in a French text of 1288, alluding to the “must” of wine made “ardent”, that is, spicy, with the addition of mustard grain flour, a mixture that allowed to keep along an easily perishable product such as fruit.
The main reason for the birth of the mustard was precisely the need to “give long life” to that fruit that would have been unavailable out of season. Even today, mustard remains one of the healthiest potted foods, capable of surviving without preservatives or dyes.
Beyond the document attesting the birth of the recipe at the end of the thirteenth century, it must be said that the spread of mustard became significant in Italy only around the seventeenth century. It is in this period that there are various testimonies of its consumption, especially during the Christmas holidays, by the northern peasant families. Then, the must increasingly gave way to candied fruit, especially quince. Many believe that the mustard derives its name and essence from the mustard from across the Alps. In reality, the two products have nothing in common except the use of the same plant, black mustard from western Asia or northern Africa.
French moutarde are sauces based on vinegar, salt and black mustard grains; the Italian mustards are instead prepared with fruit, sugar and mustard oil.
In Italy the basic types of mustard are as follows:
– Vicenza mustard, based on quince pulp, which is obtained by cooking the pulp with sugar at 50% by weight. Once the jam obtained has cooled, mustard essential oil is added. It is also used to make it with pears;
– Cremonese mustard, mixture of candied fruit and syrup with a sugar percentage of 50-60%, with the addition of mustard essential oil. Cherries, pears, quinces, mandarins, figs, apricots, peaches are usually used;
– Mantuan mustard, made with quince or sliced ​​pears, is used throughout the province for the preparation of pumpkin tortelli;
– Voghera mustard, mixture of candied fruit and syrup; recipe already widespread among monks before 1397 to preserve fruit, the year in which Gian Galeazzo Visconti wrote a letter to the Podestà of Voghera to praise the goodness of that preparation.
The term mustard is often a source of misunderstandings, as it is sometimes used, to refer to the French moutarde or English mustard, to define the best known condiment in Italian as mustard. Despite the Italian etymology, probably deriving from the Latin term mustum ardens (“fiery” must in the sense of “spicy”), it refers both to the presence of must and to spicy substances such as mustard, in the various versions of Italian mustards often one or the other ingredient (or in some cases even both) are absent.
The mustards of Cremona, Mantua and Veneto, for example, as mentioned, are often mustard and spicy (depending on the quantity of mustard) but without must, while those of Carpi, Piedmont, and southern Italy contain must but not mustard. Others, such as Bolognese and Romagna mustard, contain neither must nor mustard but only fruit.
The use of cooked must in order to preserve fruit already existed among the Romans, used as a replacement or in combination with honey. Instead, the use of mustard for this purpose is not attested, although the ingredient was used by the Romans. The birth of the “mustard” mustard (mustum ardens) would therefore seem to date back to the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, probably the work of the apothecaries of the time in the Lombard area. Next to the “new” spiced version, the sweet one, without mustard, would continue.
Mention of Carpi’s mustard can be found in the literary work La secchia rapita by Tassoni (1621), who, in describing the gifts to a papal legate, mentions (XII, 38) “two very popular Carpi mustard domes”. Moreover, a century earlier, in 1522, Berni alluded to mustard in his facete letters.

Description –
The description of the mustard is somewhat relative as it is linked to the particular regional preparations and recipes.
In general, it is presented as a preparation in which the individual pieces of fruit are still evident, which maintain and enhance the original colors wrapped in sugary substances, such as syrups, cooked wine, etc. which guarantee perfect preservation.

Active principles –
The nutritional values ​​of the mustard are linked to the percentages that are used of the individual components which, as is evident, depends very much on the starting raw materials, for which there is no standard data sheet of the nutritional values ​​and substances present in this preparation.
This is due not so much to the variability of the mustard components but also to the variety of ingredients and also to the difference in characteristics, often of the components that make up this preparation, as they also come from somewhat different cultivation systems.
In fact, since it is cooked fruit, the mustard is almost completely devoid of thermolabile vitamins and sensitive to oxidation (e.g. vitamin C), typical of fresh fruit. Observing the ingredients, it is not difficult to understand that the intake of simple sugars (fructose and sucrose) is very high and with it also drastically increases the energy content.
However, mustard is a food not recommended for people with diabetes.
It would also be discouraged for those in a slimming regime, but its consumption is still simplified given its natural “position” within the meal. Being a food to accompany other foods, it is difficult for them to be consumed in exaggerated quantities, in case this happens it is always better then to limit oneself to taking other foods that are rich in carbohydrates such as pasta or rice. Mustard is consumed because it is tasty, because it enriches the flavor of many foods and not to provide vitamins, those are rather drawn by eating fresh fruit and vegetables.
The mustards that contain apples or quinces give an exceptional aroma, moreover, they are very rich in dietary fiber (5.9 g per 100g of edible part). This means that even small portions positively affect the achievement of the recommended daily ration (about 30 g per adult).
Thanks to the presence of mustard in mustard, some studies have shown that a teaspoon is able to accelerate the body’s metabolism by 20/25% for several hours, increasing the consumption of body fat and increasing the amount of calories burned.

Properties and Uses –
Traditionally, spicy mustards are used as an accompaniment to mixed boiled meat, while in more modern times the combination with cheeses, which are generally seasoned, has spread. Some varieties, such as Cremonese mustard, are often mistaken for large candied fruit, but in reality they are a very strong taste food to pair with savory dishes.
Sweet mustards, on the other hand, are more often associated with sweet jam.
The spread of this food in northern Italy occurred in the seventeenth century; the testimonies associate its consumption with the Christmas holidays. The spread took place in the various cities of the Po Valley: Vicenza, Voghera, Mantua and above all Cremona, taking root in some traditional recipes.
In more recent times vegetable mustards have also spread: pumpkin, peppers, spring onions are candied and mustarded.
The various types of mustard produced on the Italian territory are listed below:
– Bolognese mustard, jam with a sour taste based on plums, quinces and mixed fruit, typical stuffing of ravioli and tongs;
– Carpigian sweet mustard, perhaps the only one with noble origins instead of peasants, is included in the list of typical and traditional products of Emilia-Romagna. The recipes are varied and include the different varieties of fruit. Almost all of them use fermented must of red grapes, sweet apples, pears, quinces and orange peel.
– Cremonese mustard, a mixture of candied fruit and syrup with a sugar percentage of 50-60%, with the addition of mustard essential oil. Cherries, pears, quinces, mandarins, figs, apricots, peaches are usually used;
– mustard from Forlì or Romagna, sweet and slightly spicy; to the fruit it traditionally adds quinces and plums;
– Mantuan mustard, with quinces, possibly also with pears but with whole fruits, compared to Vicentina; it is used as an ingredient in pumpkin ravioli in the Mantuan areas;
– Piedmontese mustard, or Cognà. It is a jam made from grape must (Barbera, strawberry grapes) to which are added during cooking: quinces, madernassa pears, toasted hazelnuts. It is used to accompany robiole and aged cheeses in general;
– Venetian mustard, fruit jam in the preparation of which in addition to mustard wine and candied fruit are used. Traditionally it is consumed with mascarpone during the winter holidays;
– Vicenza mustard, based on quince pulp, which is obtained by cooking the pulp with sugar at 50% by weight. Once the jam obtained has cooled, mustard essential oil is added. It is also used to make it with pears;
– Voghera mustard, mixture of candied fruit and syrup; the method was already widespread among monks before 1397 to preserve fruit. In fact, in that year Gian Galeazzo Visconti wrote a letter to the podestà of Voghera praising its goodness;
– Tuscan mustard, based on grapes, apples, pears, Vin santo and candied cedar, goes well with boiled and roasted;
– black grape mustard, an ancient Tuscan recipe that was prepared at the beginning of the harvest, based on black grapes (Canaiolo vine) and candied cedar has the same uses as the Tuscan mustard.
– Calabrian mustard, produced with cooked grape must, purified with ash and mixed with flour and chocolate;
– Apulian mustard, a sweet made from grapes that is cooked and then passed through a sieve to remove the seeds and then finish cooking.
– Sicilian mustard, sweet made from cooked must mixed with durum wheat flour and flavorings.
– Marsican mustard, must and pear based cream (popularly called simply: must and pears).

Preparations –
Among the mustards, all still excellent, the Cremonese mustard is a typical specialty of Lombardy and, as the name suggests, of the city of Cremona also known for its famous nougat.
The peculiarity of this mustard lies in the fact that, unlike other preparations, it is prepared with mixed fruit left almost whole or in any case cut into large pieces.
In this way, with the presence of mustard, the two flavors, sweet fruit and spicy mustard, are mixed creating the sweet but slightly spicy flavor that characterizes the Cremona mustard.
The origins of the Cremona mustard are to be found in ancient times, in the old monasteries of the Cremonese where, the patient monks packaged this sort of sauce to better preserve the fruit avoiding that it could go bad.
In addition, given that during the winter the monasteries remained in isolation for long periods without any contact with the outside world, the preparation of this sauce was also a way to ensure preserves for the winter.
And since the mustard can be eaten with almost any dish and food, the monks also ensured an excellent seasoning for their tables.
Nowadays the Cremona mustard is above all an industrial product but, during the Christmas period, it can also be found fresh in the typical shops of local gastronomy.
For the preparation of the Cremona Mustard, the following ingredients are used:
– Sugar 400 g;
– Mustard essence 10 drops;
– Apples 100 g;
– Pears 100 g;
– Pineapple 100 g;
– Cherries 100 g;
– Apricots 100 g;
– Peaches 100 g;
– Figs 50 g;
– Mandarins 100 g;
– Oranges 50 g.
To prepare this mustard, first of all you need to remove the fruit kernels, where present, and cut the coarse fruit into coarse pieces.
Put the fruit, so prepared, to macerate in the sugar for 24 hours.
At this point, you have to put the fruit in a saucepan with a little water, bringing everything to a boil and let it boil for 5 minutes.
It is therefore necessary to let everything rest for 24 hours and repeat the previous operation two more times being careful not to cover the pan during and after cooking because the drops of steam would spoil the preparation.
Once the cooking is finished, the mustard is added to the mixture and invaded in hermetically sealed containers.
The jars are then pasteurized according to the ministerial indications given at the bottom of the sheet and is kept in a dark place until consumption.
For a correct preparation of homemade preserves, please refer to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health. It is a list of rules of hygiene of the kitchen, of the person, of the tools used and on the treatment of the ingredients, pasteurization and conservation, so as not to incur health risks.

Guido Bissanti

Warning: The information shown is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.

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