At the beginning of December, the markets of Venice are filled with baby pears known as peretti. They seem to have originated in the countryside around Padua about forty kilometres from Venice. They smell incredible and it’s hard to resist the temptation to eat them whole, almost in one bite. They are filled to the brim with juice and have a core so soft and pips so small that you won’t even notice them. I generally dislike pears, because I find the texture a bit grainy, but I could eat a whole kilo of these in one sitting.
As I said at the end of the last post, after cioccolata calda at Torrefazione Cannaregio, I walked up to the Santa Sofia traghetto station and took a gondola ferry across the Canal Grande to the Rialto markets to buy some peretti.
One of the things that every one of the nonnas I asked said was a must for Christmas was mostarda. This is a kind of conserve of fruit in sweet and spicy syrup. There are a few different varieties and most people buy it in the shops nowadays. The most famous version comes from Cremona in Lombardy, but there are Venetian versions as well. There is even a very traditional recipe that uses these peretti and is quite easy to make at home.
Mostarda sounds like a strange idea but think sweet thai chili sauce and you realise that sweet and spicy can be a marriage made in at least the kitchen. You can make it more or less spicy according to taste. I suggest using a couple of tablespoons of powder in this recipe but it’s a good idea to add a little at a time and taste as you go until it reaches an acceptable level of hotness.
Mostarda is always best eaten a few weeks after it’s made and so I am giving you the recipe at this point so that you have plenty of time to make it and keep it for Christmas. I will tell you what to do with it in a later post.
- 1 1/2 kilos / 3 1/3 pounds peretti or normal pears
- 1 bottle of white moscato wine
- 4 cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinammon
- 350g / 12 ounces cane sugar
- 2 tablespoons mustard powder
- Peel the pears. Cut them into quarters and remove any pips.
- Put the wine into a large saucepan. Add the cloves and ground cinnamon, and stir until dissolved.
- Add the pears and sugar. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about twenty minutes until the liquid thickens slightly.
- Allow to cool. Add the mustard powder and stir until dissolved.
- Fill sterilized jars with the pears and then fill them to the top with the syrup.
- Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.