There is a tradition that is all ours, all Sicilian. It is that of mostata or mustata (in dialect), the dessert that immediately makes autumn 🍂
When the harvest period begins, memories of when I was a little girl inevitably resurface in my mind. Brothers, sisters, uncles, cousins, grandparents, mum and dad, we all moved to the countryside for a few days to experience the highlights of the harvest. They were days of celebration.
My grandfather (not him, the other one) had many vineyards, and people came from all over Italy to pick his grapes 🍇. My cousins and I also participated in the harvest. We put our loot aside and then left the hard work in the fields to go over the bridge, across the river. There was the well. How many tadpoles 🐸 swam in it! And then we rested under a weeping willow.
When lunchtime came, we reached the grownups. The meal, however, had to be light, or we would not have been able to continue harvesting. So we ate homemade bread and tuna, or a salad with tomato, onion and the steady tuna. And the fruit. I remember as if it were yesterday when my cousin Corrado spat a tooth out of his mouth committed that it was a watermelon seed 😅
At the end of our well-deserved break, we went back to work.
The most awaited moment…
We did this for a few days until the time came. The time of pressing the harvested grapes! We had to extract the must from the grapes to turn it into wine. The wine that we would drink as a family 🍷. We used machines for the wine that would have been bottled and sold. The adults then lifted us and put us into the barrels barefoot, and the fun began. Once finished, all red with wine, we got washed. What a pleasant fresh feeling..! And what satisfaction after so much effort!
The must is the main ingredient of mostata. Are you wondering how we make it? I’ll explain it to you right away.
The Sicilian mostata: procedure
First, you have to boil the must and eliminate the foam that forms on the surface. You make it cool and then add some white tuff powder, available in the Sicilian countryside. Pause. Are you re-reading, right? You read that correct, white tuff powder because it contains calcium carbonate that, following a chemical reaction in contact with the acidity of the must, softens the must itself. Someone uses carob or almond ash, but in my house, we have always used white stone. It is, then, mixed with starch or flour without adding sugar (already present in grapes), and that’s it.
You can eat it both hot as cream and cold as a pudding. Or you can put it in the special terracotta molds (‘i furmini) to dry in the open air. Of course, you have to cover it using linen or tulle sheets to protect it from dust and insects. Just like my mom is doing these days.
Don’t forget to spread some toasted almonds on mostata or, as proposed by Chef Carmelo Floridia, some chopped pistachio from Bronte. What a pleasure for the palate! 😋
Did you know that…?
I leave you with a tidbit, as well as a necessary clarification on the name of this dessert. Many people make the mistake of thinking that mostata is a Sicilian term and that the equivalent in Italian is mustard. Nothing more wrong. Mostata is a very different thing from mustard! The latter, in fact, widespread in the rest of Italy, is a fruit conserve. Another difference is that people use mustard to accompany cheeses, meats, and desserts.
Be careful, therefore, to call it by the right name! 😜
And you, have you ever harvested? Ever crushed grapes barefoot? Do you like Sicilian mostata?
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