Friday, October 19, 2012


The full name of the "Prickly Pear Festival" at Militello in Val di Catania is the Sagra della Mostarda e del Fico d'India and before arriving there on Sunday I wondered what type of mostarda would be celebrated. I've written before on this blog about the confusion surrounding the term and I repeat the  information here:

To most Sicilians, the term "mostarda" means a solid preserve made from grape must and wood ashes. Yes, ashes! [Don’t worry - they are filtered out.]  Other ingredients such as almonds may be added. I find the texture too leathery but there is also a lighter, fresh version which is rarely made now. A friend's mother-in-law does make it and I have tasted it at her home. 

The reason that the solid preserve shares the name "mostarda" with the mustard-based fruit relishes of northern Italy is that the Romans used to mix mustard seeds with verjuice instead of vinegar and in the Middle Ages, for a time, the vinegar was replaced by must, so some etymological confusion arose. 

At Militello on Sunday the solid, black preserve was much in evidence but I did find one street vendor who had made a fresh mostarda similar to the kind made by my friend's relative.  The main ingredient? Prickly pears! 

The taste?  Err..... interesting.

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