When I was a child growing up in Trieste at a particular time of the year my father and I would go to the railway station and collect a parcel, sent by relatives in Ragusa, Sicily. In it were irregular, round and oval shapes of cotognata and mostarda – not something that could be found in Trieste.
Many are familiar with cotognata, quince paste that in Australia seems to have become very common on cheese platters. I have never eaten it with cheese in Sicily. Cotognata it is a sweet that has a relatively long shelf life and is traditionally kept for those times when unexpected visitors arrive. One cannot make a brutta figura and have nothing available at home to offer to guests.
A few of you may be familiar with mostarda but perhaps what you are thinking of is mostarda of Cremona, mustard fruits in mustard oil and sugar and traditionally served with bollito misto di carne (a variety of boiled meats). Cremona is not in Sicily. Or you may have known mostarda as an ingredient for pumpkin tortelli (large tortellini – pasta pillows, similar to ravioli). This mostarda is generally made with quince.
The Sicilian mostarda is similar and eaten in the same way as cotognata but it is made with grape must, wood ash, citrus zest and cornstarch. Some add almonds or pine nuts and raisins (as in the recipe by the goddess of all Sicilian recipes, Mary Taylor Simeti).
Others add cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cloves.
The ingredients are cooked until the must becomes thick, almost solid. The mostarda is then poured into these type of moulds and dried in the sun. Like cotognata it is generally spread with granulated sugar when inverted and exposed again to the sun until they are completely dry.
Now to the moulds (also molds, depending where you come from). These belonged to my great grandmother and my brother has them hanging on his wall in the kitchen. I have a few, fond memories every time I see them. The moulds are called formelle.