jams and preserves
Jams, jellies, preserves, and syrups have evolved from their role as sweets to enhance one's morning toast into popular and contemporary foils for a range of savories from cheese to meats. Spain produces membrillo, a tart and sweet paste made from their native quince. Sliced and paired with Manchego, or other hard sheep cheese, it provides a delicious and lively counterpoint. Citrus fruits are the base of classic English Marmelade as well as concoctions from Tunisia, Spain, and Italy whose range in sweetness and bitterness pair beautifully with goat cheese or duck. Tomato jam with its thick, rich vegetable acidity is the perfect accompaniment to a number of meats and soft cheese.
Mostarda is an ancient concoction and a traditional product of Cremona, Italy. It can be made from a variety of cut fruits that have been simmered slowly for long periods of time in a sugar syrup that has been enhanced with a healthy dose of mustard essence. This results in clear, brilliant fruit swollen with the sweet yet tangy flavor of the syrup - piquant and voluptuous at the same time and highly recommended with the cheese plate.
Italy produces not only Mostarda, but other wonderfully complex mixtures such as Fragolaceto, a rich pot of strawberries and balsamic vinegar that has been reduced to thick and seductive lushness that is as good on ice cream as it is on hard cheese. There are the reduced cider products produced here in our own Vermont that are the very essence of apple. Rich, tart, and intense they can be used as accompaniments or as a glaze for meats such as pork. Small French producers export lovely jars of preserves made from clementines, apricots, elderblossoms, rose petals, and wild strawberries as well as creamy and rich nut spreads from chestnuts, hazlenuts, and almonds.