Sweet Cherry Mostarda, the new Mmm in Michelle’s life

Cherry Mostarda

Steve would like to think he’s the tastiest dish in Gourmandistan. Unfortunately, his illusions are often interrupted by sights and sounds suggesting he’s not, mostly around mealtimes. His latest rival arrived as a result of an unwise impulse buy of sweet cherries at last Saturday’s market. Steve snatched up both boxes without even looking at them, as these were the first locally grown sweet cherries we have ever seen around here. At home, he discovered that not only were half of them bruised beyond usability, but the rest (somewhat battered themselves) weren’t even that tasty. Michelle offered to make something with the surviving non-chicken-food cherries. She suggested pickles, or perhaps preserves, but Steve thought Gourmandistan had enough of both already. Michelle turned to Paul Virant’s The Preservation Kitchen. Steve turned to pitting his cherries. And now he’s playing second fiddle to a fruit stew.

Cherry Mostarda

We didn’t notice mostarda much when we were in Italy. Perhaps we were ordering the wrong things in restaurants; perhaps the Padovans don’t much care for the stuff. But after she made her own, Michelle has been hunting for excuses to eat some. She may soon drop even that pretense, as on one occasion she remarked: “I should just drink this out of the jar.” We’ve had it on ham, on Italian salami, mortadella, pork chops, cheese and more, and Michelle still can’t get enough. (Steve, quietly eating jam, is sad.) Vinegar, mustard and salt coaxed deep flavor from the mediocre cherries, even though we bucked Virant’s admonition and used powdered mustard instead of prepared Coleman’s English. We also ignored Virant’s instruction to can the the stuff—which is just as well given the speed with which we’ve gone through it.

Cherry Mostarda

As we’ve seen no more local cherries, someday our sweet cherry mostarda will be no more. But there will be other markets, and possibly other cherries. There will be more mostarda in Gourmandistan. And there will be Steve, cuckold to cherries, pitting and pining for his former place in Michelle’s heart.

Cherry Mostarda


  • Servings: makes about 1 pint
  • Print

(adapted from Paul Virant’s The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-Doux)

  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. + 1 TB water
  • 1-1/2 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 TB powdered mustard
  • 1/2 TB mustard seeds
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 1 pound sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted

Mix together all ingredients except cherries in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add cherries and cook over medium-high heat until they are softened, about 20 minutes. Refrigerate.



    • Thanks, Mimi! It’s funny. I bought it a good while ago and flipped through several times and thought perhaps I regretted the purchase. But, now that I’ve made this, I can’t wait to dig back in!

  1. Your cherry season is starting and mine has long ended; your blueberry season has ended and mine is just now starting. That’s too bad, because the mostarda, even without the glowing write-up, looks delicious topping that cured meat. Ah well, there’s always blueberry-lemon curd tart…

    • The weather has been so strange this year! We’re in the midst of wild blackberry season now, which is weeks late. The good thing about this recipe is that I’m thinking it may be good even with (gasp!) grocery cherries from far, far away. I intend to find out. 🙂

  2. Omg. I am totally making this! I saw tart Montmorency cherries at the market a couple of weeks ago and snatched them up before realizing that I would have no time to do anything with them while my parents were in town. In the freezer they went 😦 But next week, I am totally going to make this. Thank you!

  3. We love mustard fruits and these look good enough to slather on a plain slice of baguette, although a slice of something sharp wouldn’t hurt. Great idea for cherries that I hadn’t considered (for some reason all the Italian cherry mostarda we see use yellow cherries, probably because in Europe the yellow ones are often sour). Excellent photos. The cherries really pop. Macro lens? Ken

    • Thanks so much, Julia. It’s an interesting cookbook. Came out last year. The author has some Chicago-area restaurants that I haven’t been to. This was the first thing I’ve made out of the book. It definitely makes me want to try some more things.

    • Thanks! I’ve had little luck with savory preserves in the past. Things that sounded fabulous but didn’t live up to expectations (I particularly remember a pear and rosemary conserve). But, after this, I’m looking forward to trying more.

  4. Funny, I was planning on making this (from that very cookbook). Glad to know it’s a winner. And an excellent addition to your open-faced sandwich theme!

  5. Kate

    This looks fabulous, but alas our cherry season has come and gone. I’m wondering if this would work with fresh figs. They aren’t as juicy as cherries and would break down a bit more…but why not try it? We’re about to be knee-deep in the next few weeks. Generally, we harvest about eight to ten pounds a day for a good week. And yes, off of one tree!

  6. Kelly and Mark

    Dear Michelle and Steve,

    We’ve just made the incredibly delicious, buttery mostarda, Michelle…………..and after it cooled, having stood by it repeatedly licking the spoon and wowing away, we can understand why Steve might be pining for lost affections. This will be a standard with us for the rest of our days: it transplanted beautifully to an island off the southeast coast, even with (gasp! groan! terroir traitors!) plump sweet cherries from Washington state. Your essay about it reminds us anew of your elegant “Talk of the Town” prose. Love to you both, with thanks, and — we know Steve will find his way back (not too much of that jam, Mr. H.!). xoxo, Kelly and Mark


    Thanks so much for this recipe, it sounds gorgeous with the sweetness of the cherries and tart vinegar and kick frm the mustard. This is the first I’ve heard of mostarda (I learn so much from reading food blogs 😉 ) and can’t wait to try it once I get my hands of some ripe cherries!

  8. Pingback: Ontario cherries « Jaime's Expressions

  9. I made it, and am pleased with the flavor, but the consistency is quite thin, Is this what you experienced, or did I not reduce it adequately? I’m considering draining off the cherries and reducing the vinegar mixture until it thickens, before adding the cherries back in, reheating and recanning . What texture does an authentic mostarda have?

    • I expect it’s kind of like jams and jellies: sometimes runny, sometimes thick, depending on a lot of different factors. I haven’t made it again—something I obviously need to remedy!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: