Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rhubarb Mostarda

It's about 8:30 p.m. here in my little corner of the Hudson Valley, and the sky is just starting to get that cornflower blue cast to it, and the leaves are making a soft whisper, being blown by a cool breeze. The warm air is mixing with the cool wind, and it smells like baked mown grass, Russian olive and rose blossoms, chives and maybe a hint of rain. Since it stopped raining last Tuesday, I've been thrown into a summer-time idyll, and the things I want to write about pile up as photographs, but never make it to the page.

I've instead been working in the garden: pulling up rows of arugula and braising greens, radishes and lettuce. All of a sudden there is a deluge of things to eat from my yard. The strawberries are ripe and the rhubarb is flourishing. The asparagus is taking nicely to its new bed, and the potatoes seem to be in a race with themselves, they are growing so fast. The sugar snap peas aren't happy, but the purple podded peas are. The beets and carrots are coming along. The cucumbers sprouted in what seems like days. And the tomatoes. Oh, goodness, the tomatoes! It's really summer when the tomatoes are set in their cages.

This week I spent some time driving around tiny towns, like Accord and Alligerville, picking up ten pounds of rhubarb and dropping off jars of jam to worthy folks. My little boy and I have been making the rounds of all the playgrounds, and all the places to eat ice pops, or sorbets, or something fruity because he doesn't yet have a taste for vanilla or chocolate. At the ice cream stands families loiter, like us, and the older kids seem to be sniffing out summer vacation. We like to visit a park in Gardiner that is next to Sky Dive The Ranch so we can watch for people falling from the sky with colorful parachutes.

Today was another perfect summer day, and we didn't do much. We drove to Tractor Supply to buy chicken feed. We took a quick stroll over the Walkway Over the Hudson. Later on we hung around at the Kingston Point Park and flew a kite. Whenever you take the time to fly a kite, you think: what a good idea it is to fly a kite! The wind was perfect, and our new dragon flew up easily. There was a good mix of people down by the beach, and I closed my eyes to soak it all in. I grew up near the water, and it still is a deliciously comfortable feeling that floods every sense: the smell of sunscreen, the feel of the sand, the sound of the waves and children laughing, screaming or crying. The only thing missing was the salt. I do miss the ocean.

All of these things are just thick with summer. Bug bites and sunburns are just the price you pay; not as onerous as they will soon become. Right now I'm savoring instead the outdoor visits with friends, drinking icy cold beers, and snacking on some crackers, good cheddar and this really delicious rhubarb mostarda. I've been meaning to make mostarda for a long time now. It's an Italian condiment that's similar to a chutney, but not quite as pickled. My version has wild Alaskan lingonberries in it, thanks to Shae at Hitchhiking to Heaven. But think of this recipe as a blueprint. You could use any fruit really. And then insert it into your idyll.

Rhubarb and Lingonberry Mostarda

1 pound of rhubarb, chopped in 1/2" chunks
1 cup of lingonberries (or cranberries, or pears or apples)
1 cup of dry white wine
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon of brown mustard seed
1 tablespoon of yellow mustard seed
1 teaspoon of salt
the juice and zest of two small oranges (I used satsumas, tart and bright, blood oranges would be nice.)
(optional: bay leaf, sprig of fresh rosemary)

Put all ingredients in a pot and simmer until it gets to a spreadable consistency. Some recipes say two hours, but mine was much quicker, probably because of the lingonberries, which are high in pectin. Store in the fridge. Serve with pork or chicken, or with a good cheese.


  1. Gorgeous post, Julia. Hasn't our instant summer been just amazing? I know exactly how you feel; I sat on my back deck for nearly an hour this evening, doing nothing but sipping wine and watching the wind play in the tops of the trees. Glorious.

  2. This sounds terrific! I NEED to make it really soon.

    Our instant summer starts today (31 degrees) so there had better be some planting on my part.

  3. Your mostarda looks amazing! I've never heard of such a thing, but now I must make it. Thank you! Enjoy the weather- it is cold and rainy here in Nor cal ????

  4. twobythesea.blogspot.comMay 30, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    What a wonderful post for Memorial Day. Sort of nostalgic and summery. Reminds me of my childhood in the Rochester area. The mostarda sounds really good too. I've made it with other fruit with good results but rhubarb is brilliant!

  5. Wow, Julia. This mostarda looks fabulous.

  6. Julia,

    What a gorgeous post! Wow. I'm not a master gardener at all, but I decided to go beyond containers this year and put up some raised beds (made out of wood paneling from my childhood bedroom- my parents save everything)... my point, last night, until about 9pm, I transplanted my starters from the farmers I work for and loved every minute of it; the smells, the extended daylight, the heat. Loved it. I am so with you.

    As for the recipe, I CAN NOT wait to try it. Thanks for sharing! -Christina

  7. I can't get over what a gorgeous color that is! I need to find some fruit - have the rhubarb and the mustard seed. Time to go hunt in the chest freezer...

  8. What a gorgeous confluence of flavors. A sour mostarda just sounds incredible. I was jamming this weekend - I'm actually very inexperienced, but came up with a nice raspberry jam I'm eating right now. But how great it would have been as a mostarda?!

  9. Wow, you've captured the spirit of summer so perfectly. Makes me want to escape the city and roam around the Hudson Valley for a while! And the mostarda sounds tart and tangy and fabulous.

  10. Thanks, Kaela! It is just glorious. Got to appreciate it before it gets too hot!

    Adventures in Dinner/Jane - Did you say, and mean, 31 degrees??

    My Pantry Shelf/Karen - Rain? Really? That's not fair!

    Two By the Sea/Pat - Thanks. I was just feeling it!

    Denise - Thanks! The shapes of the texture are very interesting...

    FSC /Christina - Don't you just love that feeling? I heard about your hard work with the raised beds. I think it's just awesome!

    Kate - Isn't it purty?? I'll bet you have something fitting in that freezer of yours...

    Ken - I am loving this mostarda. Such a singular flavor! And I don't know, I'll bet that raspberry jam has its merits!

    Nancy - Thanks for stopping in! I'll bet the city is pretty nice right about now, too, though!

  11. Beautiful color to the mostarda. I made rhubarb steak sauce and the color is ugh! I should have added some beautiful berries for color.

  12. That platter makes me want to rush round to your house and join in. Looks just fab.

  13. This recipe sounds amazing and your writing is so beautiful.

  14. I've been digging rhubarb in more savory applications lately, too. Have you tried adding mustard oil for extra heat? I'm sort of addicted to it.

  15. BakingBarb - Thanks! Yes, that can happen with rhubarb, can't it! I just made a cake with a lovely pal green center. ; )

    Gloria - Would that would be possible!

    Winnie - Thank you so much, Winnie!

    Peter - Mustard oil? Did you make it? I'll have to look into it...

  16. I'm so glad I have lots and lots of rhubarb right now! Sounds like a superb way to use it.

  17. Elizabeth - Mine's almost done for the season! I'm going to make one more small batch, because it's so good.

  18. Jules, I am thrilled that some of those lingonberries made it into such a gorgeous preserve as this one. And I am impressed by how you have made them last -- you may stretch them all the way out until September, when you are sure to get more. :-)

  19. Shae - That would be a dream come true! Ever the hoarder...; )

  20. Looking forward to trying this since I love this sort of thing, and we planted rhubarb last year and now have to figure out what to do with it. What is the yield? Also, is there a big difference between brown and yellow mustard seeds? I only have yellow. Thanks.

    1. Hi Annie- I am guessing the yield was one pint. The brown mustard seeds are a bit stronger. I think it would be fine with just yellow!