Photo: Hannah Whitaker. Illustrations: John Burgoyne

Small in size, mealy in texture, and high in pectin, crabapples are bad for eating out of hand but great for jam. At i Trulli, chef Patti Jackson cooks them into mostarda, the chutney-like Italian condiment she serves with sheep’s-milk cheese or bollito misto. Horseradish, ginger, red pepper, and mustard oil lend a savory bite and distinctive flavor profile, making the spicy stuff a great holiday gift.

Patti Jackson’s Crabapple Mostarda

5 lbs. firm crabapples (available at Greenmarket’s Breezy Hill Orchard or Locust Grove Fruit Farm stands)
Juice of 1 lemon
3 cups sugar
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 2-inch piece horseradish root, quartered
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, quartered
1 tsp. red-pepper flakes
1 tbs. mustard oil or wasabi oil (available at Kalustyan’s)

Wash three pounds of crabapples, and remove stem and blossom ends (do not pare or core); reserve remaining fruit. (1) Cut into quarters and place in a pot. Add two quarts of water, cover, and bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until crabapples are just soft; do not overcook. (2) When fruit is tender, pour contents of pot through a triple layer of dampened cheesecloth into a large container. (3) Tie the cheesecloth to a wooden spoon and position over container to drain without pressing or squeezing, yielding four cups of juice. (Discard cheesecloth contents, or use for applesauce.) Wash, peel, and dice the remaining crabapples and toss with lemon juice. Bring the drained juice and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, horseradish, ginger, and pepper flakes. When the juice reaches 218 degrees or drips thickly off a metal spoon, remove the horseradish, cinnamon, ginger, and bay leaves. Add the diced fruit. Stir, and continue cooking for eight to ten minutes. Add the mustard oil or wasabi oil. Pour into canning jars, following manufacturer’s instructions, or store in a glass or plastic container in the refrigerator. Makes approximately 6 cups.