As a kid I always carried around a Swiss army knife, ready to use any of the blades to “MacGyver” a solution to whatever situation might arise. To this day, that ready-for-anything attitude still holds true, especially when it comes to cooking.
I am a huge fan of stocking my fridge with what I consider “multi-purpose” foods. To me, that means condiments, jams, pickles, preserved meats, and other food products that can be used in a multitude of ways. The best of these ingredients can easily elevate an ordinary dish into something spectacular.
One of my favorite multipurpose foods is peach mostarda. Though regional versions very dramatically, mostarda is a traditional sweet and hot Italian condiment consisting of candied fruit boosted by the piquant heat of mustard oil. My version is simpler—I only use peaches—and it relies on easy-to-get ingredients.
I serve my simple mostarda alongside roasted pork or chicken, chopped into a relish and served over seared fish, as a finishing touch to a pan sauce, as a garnish on a cheese plate, or even warmed up and served over homemade ice cream. I suggest you try it first with roasted pork, then see what you can MacGyver up on your own.
My version of peach mostarda begins with a few simple and easy-to-obtain ingredients: peaches, sugar, and a host of spices and seasonings.
First, combine the peeled peaches with sugar, orange juice, salt, cloves, star anise, bay leaves, and cinnamon and stir until all of the sugar is moistened. At this point, the peaches need to be covered and refrigerated for 24 hours. The acid in the orange juice and the salt will help draw liquid out of the peaches, which will later be used to make the cooking syrup.
The next day, the peaches will have released quite a bit of liquid, creating syrup that’s become infused with the flavors of the spices during macerating. Depending on the juiciness of the peaches, some of the sugar may not have fully dissolved, but we’ll take care of that next.
Drain the peaches of the syrup and sugar in a colander set over a saucepan. Then pick out the spices and transfer them to the saucepan.
Once the peaches are fully drained, bring the syrup to a simmer, ensuring that all of the sugar is fully dissolved. Then carefully place the peaches into the syrup and bring back to a very gentle simmer.
Simmer the peaches until they are just tender—depending on how ripe the peaches were to begin with, it will take 10 to 15 minutes. They are done when a paring knife pierces them easily and with little resistance.
When the peaches are tender, use a slotted spoon to carefully transfer the cooked peaches to a sealable jar.
With the peaches safely set aside, increase the heat to medium and reduce the syrup to 1½ cups in volume. This generally takes about 5 minutes, but keep your eye on it (here’s a tip). If it reduces too far, you won’t have enough syrup to cover the peaches.
Once the syrup is fully reduced, whisk together the dry mustard, whole grain mustard, and cider vinegar, then stir the mustard mixture into the syrup.
Carefully pour the hot syrup over the cooked peaches. At this point they are ready for the final phase of preparation: sitting back and letting the peaches’ flavorful syrup do its job.
The peach mostarda must be sealed in a jar and refrigerated for at least 2 weeks. During this time the peaches will take on the full flavor of the mustard and spices, and become preserved.
After 2 weeks in the refrigerator, the peach mostarda is ready to be eaten, or it will last in refrigerator for several months. No matter how you choose to consume this condiment, whether accompanying a pork roast or a cheese plate, it has endless possibilities and can truly elevate an ordinary meal.