Casting about for a way to glamorize a turkey preparation, my gaze fell upon a bunch of plump, seeded purple grapes I had purchased at the farmers’ market. I like the seeded varieties for their winy flavor
and crunchy seeds, and I thought of the Italian delicacy mostarda, a specialty condiment of Northern Italy originally based on the residue, called “must,” left after crushing grapes for wine. (All parts of the grape are full of good-for-you anti-oxidants.) Over time, mostarda was such a runaway hit that inevitable variations popped up, some with pears, some with apples or quince, some, like the most famous one, mostarda di Cremona, without any grape must, just mixed fruit in syrup. For my rendition, I combined the grapes, including seeds, halved but not crushed, added some mustard seeds to accentuate the mostarda aspect–it’s not clear if the mostarda name is based on the must or the mustard, a key ingredient–and some cracked black peppercorns for a high kick. Wow!
The recipe was originally published in the glorious but short-lived Williams-Sonoma Taste magazine. I make it often in grape season to add verve to poultry, pork, beef, and lamb dishes. It’s especially good with Thanksgiving turkey. If you don’t relish the crunch of seeds and prefer a smoother style, substitute purple seedless grapes. A hint: to keep the peppercorns from flying all over when you strike them with the mallet, place them on a paper towel, fold it over to enclose them, then hammer away.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 1/2 pounds purple grapes with seeds, rinsed, stemmed, and halved
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, cracked with a mallet
1 tablespoon powdered mustard, preferably Coleman’s
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1. Spread the mustard seeds on a microwave plate or in a small ungreased heavy skillet and toast on high or over medium-high heat until just beginning to pop, about 2 minutes either way. Transfer the seeds to a large bowl.
2. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir to mix. Microwave on high, stirring every 5 minutes, until bubbling and thickened enough to lightly coat a spoon, from 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the juiciness of the grapes. (Keep in mind, grapes have a lot of natural pectin and the mixture will thicken considerably as it cools.) Remove and let cool completely before using. Will keep refrigerated for up to 6 weeks. Alternatively, stir together the mustard seeds and remaining ingredients in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until done as above, about 30 to 40 minutes.