Condiments 101: Mustard
Condiments are the additional sauce, sprinkle, oil or flavoring we put on our food to enhance flavor. Ranging the spectrum from salt and pepper to soy sauce, chutney, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard, condiments are used worldwide to bring distinguishable flavors to cuisine. With grilling and picnic season upon us it’s a great time to explore different ways to use traditional condiments, such as mustard, to kick-up your spring time brats, burgers, and sandwiches.
Mustard is one of the oldest cultivated crops. Food historians have traced the use of mustard seeds all the way back to 3,000 B.C.E. where it is believed to have first been cultivated in India. Mustard comes from the tiny seeds of the mustard plant of which there are over 40 species. The pungent taste is activated when the seeds are crushed and mixed with a liquid such as water, wine, vinegar or beer. Mustard seeds can also be used in pickling and shrimp and crab boil blends. Alternatively, for a subtle mustard seeds can be cooked in oil and added whole to dishes like curry.
Commercially available mustard is derived from either yellow, brown, or black seeds:
- Yellow mustard seeds are mild and produce spicier mustard than the standard store bought yellow mustard.
- Brown mustard seeds are more pungent than the yellow mustard seeds and possess a fiery flavor which rates in at 2 or 3 on a heat scale from 1 to 10. These seeds are commonly used to make whole grain and many coarse varieties of mustard.
- Black mustard seeds appear similar to brown seeds but black mustard seeds are bigger and possess an earthy, yet pleasant flavor that is far less bitter.
Making homemade mustard is quite simple. Below are two basic recipes using whole seeds and mustard powder. Both recipes yield a great mustard, however, the first recipe will not provide instant gratification as the seeds do need to soak for a few days.
Basic Mustard Recipe with Whole Seeds
- ½ cup portion yellow seeds
- ½ cup brown or black seeds
- ¼ cup of white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup of white wine
Mix all ingredients in an air tight glass container (other containers can be used as long as they are not metal). Let them stand for 24-48 hours. Put the mix in the blender and blend until desired consistency. Note you will need to add water to thin the mustard and a few pinches of salt can be added to taste. The mustard will be potent. Let the mustard stand out of light on the counter until desired heat level is reached then refrigerate to maintain desired heat level.
Basic Mustard Recipe with Powder
- ½ cup mustard powder
- 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 5 tablespoons white wine
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For mild mustard, combine the liquids and bring to a boil, then mix in the dry ingredients. For hotter mustard mix all ingredients together. Let the mustard stand out of light on the counter until desired heat level is reached then refrigerate to maintain desired heat level.
Either recipe above can be used as a mustard base. Add your own unique twist with spices like curry and ginger, honey, garlic, wasabi or tarragon and peppercorns. Try experimenting with different liquids like beer, red wine or water in place of the white wine.
Happy Mustard Making!
Scott MacCabe and Amy MacCabe are owners of Savory Spice Shop in South End.