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.
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.
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.
(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.