Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dusky Honey, Watermelon Jam, & Fig Mostarda

It’s sort of been like Christmas in October as I’ve had the opportunity to taste more extraordinary condiments from the Lake Garda region of Italy, via Laney Sachs and her online import shop, Ortensia Blu. Last week it was all about Mostarda Senepata. Here are a few more hard-to-find delicacies she's gathered. All would make great gifts. But if I were you, I'd order some to keep, too. 

Dusky (in a beautiful way) Honey

Ortensia Blu offers this romantic description for Miele del garda Bresciano also known as Melata: “Honeydew (Melata) Honey is named after the beads of nectar that glisten in the morning dew.” 

The thing is, that “morning dew” comes not from the nectar of wildflower blossoms, but from sap. This sap is a result, as one source put it, of “a splendid team effort involving bees and other insects. As they pierce the bark of fir and chestnut trees (among others) they release the essence of the tree—known as the melata,” spreading it over the surrounding flowers and leaves. The bees collect this sap with its aromatic, dusky character and high mineral content and transform it into this rare, highly prized honey. 

Dark amber, it has a lusty, molasses-y flavor profile. Enjoy it as you would enjoy any great honey. I actually like it on oatmeal, and it’s a classic with figs (roasted or not) and cheese for dessert.

A Most Unusual Jam

Conserva de Anguria Bianca is a watermelon jam. New to me, its flavor sits on the border of earthy and refreshing. Light and delicate, the jam resonates with the flavor of summer melon, but it’s not overly sweet. I found myself fantasizing about spreading it between layers of a vanilla poppyseed cake. It would also shine on biscuits or cornbread.

Beyond its flavor, what might strike you most about this shimmering, translucent green jam is the appearance of slippery red watermelon seeds suspended in the jar. I don’t suppose it would hurt you to swallow them, but I kind of like rolling them around my mouth and then letting them fly out over the deck when I’m alone. In “polite” (a rare occurrence in my world) company I would simply let them slide back onto a spoon or into my napkin. If you spread the jam on toast or whatever, you would, of course, remove the seeds. But the fact that the producer left them in the jam makes me really happy.

Mostarda de Fichi

Completely different in form and color from the firm jelly-like Mostarda Senepata in last week’s post, this spicy/sweet mostarda is what I think of when I think of the idea of “adult” sugarplums dancing in my head. Divine.

Petite white figs are suspended in a lemony yellow syrup and the flavor is a cross between spicy/hot and sweet. Traditionally, mostardas are served with “boiled meats” – something that always comes up in references but doesn’t really sound all that good. I like them with cheeses, of course – on a platter with salty cured meats, and with grilled meats of any kind. I could also see enjoying this particular fig mostarda with nicely caramelized roasted vegetables, such as carrots or Brussels sprouts. I’d drizzle a bit of the syrup on the veg’s and sprinkled chopped fig over them – not too much, just enough to get the occasional bite.

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1 comment:

  1. These jams are so unique! I really need to try some of these out. Can you buy them online? I really love your blog. I have a cooking blog too! I would really appreciate if you could check it out Thank you!