What do you know about one of America’s most loved condiments – second only to peppercorns? Whether you are curious about the history of mustard or want to know how to make your own mustard, you are in the right place! With a few fun facts and some helpful tips, we can tell you all you need to know about the basics of mustard!
The Culinary History of Mustard
Mustard has the presumed distinction of being the world’s oldest known condiment since mustard seeds have been found in Egypt in the tombs of pharaohs. However, prepared mustard seems to have originated from the Romans, who decided to grind the mustard seeds and mix the powder with an unfermented grape juice referred to as “must.” While the original flavor was rather crude compared to what we enjoy today, the popularity of the sauce spread through Europe and eventually made its way to Dijon, France where Jean Naigeon changed our experience of mustard for the better. His most notable accomplishment was in taking out the sour juice made from unripe grapes and replacing it with the far less acidic vinegar, creating a smooth, yet robust taste. French law continues to regulate the specific ingredients for mustard recipes even today and Dijon mustard has become the standard by which all other mustards are measured.
The Magic of Mustard
The Basics of Mustard Making
Once the mustard seed is broken through the grinding process, enzymes convert into an oil and this is where the magic begins to happen. The amount of heat in a particular kind of mustard is largely determined by the seed itself, but this heat remains inactive until a liquid is added. The more acidic the liquid, the slower the reaction of the enzymes and the longer the powerful flavor will last. Vinegar is perfect for mild mustards, but hotter varieties are made with pure water. The water temperature also affects the heat level as hot water will deactivate the mustard enzymes while cold water will keep them intact. However, the more active the enzymes, the shorter the shelf-life for the flavor. So, be sure to buy them with an expiration date of more than six months out.
Sampling the Sauce
Basic Varieties of Mustard
The most popular, all-purpose mustard is made from yellow mustard seeds and mixed with turmeric to give it that rich golden color and its unique flavor. If you add honey to the mix, generally using a one-to-one ratio, you have the basics of honey mustard. Spicy brown mustard uses hotter brown seeds as well as a less acidic vinegar, which creates a bigger zing. Additionally, this favorite deli mustard has a coarser texture and can be mixed with cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg for a delicious earthy flavor. There is also whole grain mustard, hot mustard, Dijon mustard and many more to try! Explore the world of mustards with gusto and you will find many new delights for your taste buds to sample!