Make Your Own Delicious Mustard – It’s Easy!
by Cynthia Briscoe
Last night David made the most delicious seitan. Yum. “Let’s have seitan deli sandwiches and soup for dinner!” I exclaimed. And since we both love mustard on seitan sandwiches, I went to fetch a bottle of it. However, when I went to squeeze the mustard bottle, the “plph-fwwt-fwwt-fluppering” sound of not-enough-mustard dashed my sandwich dream. That was until I remembered the big jar of mustard seeds languishing in the spice drawer.
“I’ll surprise David and make some delicious home-made mustard to compliment his tasty seitan,” or so I thought.
“Look before you leap.”
Sometimes I do quite the opposite, especially when blinded by a flash of inspiration. That’s how new recipes are born, right? I’d wanted to try making mustard for a while, and now the perfect opportunity presented itself. I eagerly poured a cup of brown mustard seeds into the Magic Bullet blender.
“Hmm…what kind of vinegar should I add?” I asked myself. “Oh, I know – the persimmon vinegar I made this past fall.” I was sure it would be deliciously tangy and sweet. So, I added enough persimmon vinegar to cover the top of the seeds and began grinding.
Quickly enough the little blender groaned for more liquid, I added the remainder of brown rice vinegar that was in another bottle. Still more liquid was needed, so I added some unfiltered apple cider vinegar, taking care not to let the mother vinegar slip into the blender. I tasted it and added additional water and more sea salt, as it was still pretty thick and pasty.
On the next taste It was horrible, something akin to bitter dirt – nothing like the mustard of my flavorful imagination. With deeply deflated enthusiasm, I shoved the mustard toward the back of the counter, abandoning it to the company of the food processor. I really meant to compost it that night, but with other distractions, I forgot.
Two days later, armed with a rubber spatula, I was ready to feed the failed mustard to the compost. But then, that ever-hopeful little voice told me to give it a farewell taste. Perhaps before it had only been a bad mustard dream. To my surprise, it now tasted like an expensive gourmet mustard – flavorfully pungent, very spicy, and with subtle tangy sweet undertones.
Little did I know just how incredibly easy and foolproof it is to make your own mustard. With only three basic components, the possibilities are endless. There’s not even any cooking involved. Here’s a quick primer for what you need to know about the three main ingredients before launching into your own personal mustard adventure.
The 3 Main Components in Making Mustard
1. Mustard seeds come in two basic varieties: light and dark. The lighter colored seeds, known as yellow or white, are milder tasting like the common yellow mustard. The darker colored seeds, referred to as black or brown, yield a spicier, more pungent and robust mustard. At least some of the seeds of either variety need to be broken or crushed in order to release the pungency.
2. The liquid can be varied but almost always includes some type of vinegar. Fruit or fruit juice, citrus, water, beer or other spirits my be added. Acidity unlocks and activates the spicy volatile chemistry in the mustard seeds. The more acidic the liquid, the slower the heat is unlocked and the longer the heat will stay in the mustard. Acidity sets the spicy flavor and preserves it. If no sour liquid is used, for example, if only water is used, the mustard will lose its potency within a couple of days.
Also the temperature of the water/liquid used effects the flavor. Hot water deactivates the mustard enzymes and heat levels, while cold water keeps the burn intact.
3. Salt balances and enhances the flavor, and when combined with vinegar preserves the mustard for many months refrigerated, if not indefinitely. In fact basic mustard may dry out with age, but does not spoil.
4. Optional additions such as herbs, spices, horseradish, hot peppers, chopped nuts, seeds, or sweeteners may be added for variety. Tumeric is often added to dial up the yellow color. Just add a pinch at a time until you get the desired color. Sweeteners tame the heat and give the mustard a sweet and sour tone.
Basic Proportions for Making Mustard
1 part mustard seeds
2 parts liquid
½ tsp. salt per cup of mustard or to taste
The seeds and liquid parts can be soaked for a couple of days before pureeing or the ingredients may be pureed and let rest for a couple of days.
Start with ½ cup of mustard seeds and you will get about a pint of mustard. It’s fun and so easy to create your own gourmet mustard.
Some Interesting Historical Tidbits about Mustard
Ancient civilizations such as in China, Egypt, India and Mesopotamia used mustard seeds as early as 3,000-4,000 years ago. However, they used the seeds roasted or sautéed whole as a seasoning, not ground into a mustard sauce.
Romans were the first to turn mustard into a sauce, a precursor to what we squeeze out of a bottle today. One 3,000-year-old Roman recipe says to crush the mustard seeds and combine with grape must. Must is the first liquid pressed from grapes before fermenting into wine. This grape juice was cooked and reduced by about three quarters and was commonly used as a sweetener. The Latin name for mustard is “mustrum ardens” which translates to “burning must”.
One of the more curious historical mysteries of mustard lies here in California. In the springtime, fields and orchards, and margins along highways are awash in the intense yellow glow of flowering mustard. It is the black seed mustard variety. Yet mustard is not native to California. So how is it that mustard came to be so prevalent?
Some stories credit Father Junipero Serra for bringing mustard to California. He established the first mission in California in 1769. This was the first of 61 missions built along the 600 mile trail known as the Camino Real or Royal Road. The distance between missions was about 30 miles or a day’s travel by horseback. Purportedly, Father Serra and other Franciscan monks traveling from mission to mission, cast about mustard seeds to mark the trail with mustard plants.
Why mustard and not some other plant? No one knows for sure, because it was not written. Some surmise that perhaps it was the symbolism of the yellow mustard flower itself. Each individual flower has four petals that form the shape of a cross, as do the flowers of all cruciferous plants. Or maybe it was the parable of the mustard seed when Jesus told his followers that if they had as much faith as the size of the small mustard seed, they could easily command the hills to move and they would move. The small mustard seeds have certainly come to command the hills of California. Mustard seed can rest in the ground for 50 years and still remain viable. Or perhaps it was simply sown for the practical value of mustard as food source. The leafy greens and the edible seeds are both nutritious and medicinal.
Regardless of the reason why mustard seeds were cast about, there is proof within the adobe bricks of the missions themselves. The bricks were made from local mud and straw. The earliest bricks show no signs of mustard pollen or seeds, only signs of native indigenous plants. Subsequent later adobe contains mustard signatures within the clay bricks.
Cucumber Dill Pickles
2 lbs. small pickling cucumbers
1 quart water
3 level Tablespoons sea salt
7 cloves of garlic peeled
1 Tablespoon whole peppercorns
5 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon whole mustard seeds
16 small dried red peppers
½ gallon jar
3 umbels of dried dill
5 fresh grape leaves
. You will know when fermentation is active when a few small bubbles begin to appear in the jar and it starts to smell a little sour.
Makes 2 quarts or ½ gallon dill pickles. The proportion of salt is 3 Tablespoons sea salt to 1 quart of water. To measure how much salt water is needed to make your dill pickles, you can pack your jar with cucumbers and then fill the jar with water. Pour off the water into a measuring cup and you will know exactly how much brine to make.
The grape leaves are optional, but the tannins in the leaves make the pickles crispier. If you do not have access to grapes, wild grapes are plentiful and may be used as well. Select newer growth leaves that are more tender.
© Macrobiotics America
Olive Making (Salt Cured)
by Cynthia Briscoe
Oroville, CA, where I live, claims fame as the home of the canned olive. When a woman named Mrs. Ehmann found herself widowed and penniless, she got busy and invented the canned olive, today commonly fitted as a joke by kids over their digits at the holiday table. The Mediterranean climate here in Oroville is perfectly suited to the growth of this illustrious fruit. There is even a town named Palermo nearby since it reminded the settlers of the Italian town.
Olive trees abound here, as well as abandoned orchards that gradually succumb to housing projects and apartment complexes. Some survive the dozer and provide landscaping shade in schoolyards, parks, and around homes, as they require no water during the blazing hot summers. For most folks today, the fruits are a nuisance, staining their patios and sidewalks, but for me, they are a glorious treasure longing to be acknowledged and touched by human hands.
The late fall and winter months provide an abundance of ripe olives. The colors are a rich and vibrant deep purple, almost black. There may be a few in the mix that are maroon in color. Throw in a few olive leaves and the palette of color will make your heart sing. Combine the olive picking with a picnic, children, grandchildren or a dear companion, and the flavor of your home cured olives will be even more delicious.
Salt cured olives are so incredibly simple to make that it causes one to wonder why more people don’t, especially when you view the price tag on naturally cured olives. Perhaps folks just accept Mrs. Ehmann’s version of the dark, canned olive as the only way to have an olive. Probably they have not yet tasted the rich, robust, complex flavor of salt cured olives, or experienced the contrast of cool earth seeping through the soles of your shoes, balanced by the warm sun knitting rays into the back of your sweater…or a blue sky floating cloud patterns above your head whenever you look up to reach a higher branch heavy with olives. Mix that with the sounds of children, flushing wings, birdsong and the rubbery firm sound of olives bouncing into a bucket after picking: authentically life-delicious!
Recipe for Salt Cured Black Olives
2 parts olives
1 part salt
–Pick ripe olives from the tree. Resist the temptation to collect fallen olives from the ground as those are more susceptible to spoilage.
–Sort through the olives and pick out any remaining stems and discard any olives that show signs of insect wounding.
–Weigh the olives and write down the weight.
-Take a small sharp knife and cut a slit in each olive. Place them in a bowl large enough for washing the olives. (The slit helps to leech the bitterness from the olives.)
-Cover the olives with water. Pour off any floating debris, rinse again and drain.
–Weigh out the salt. You need an amount of salt that is ½ the weight of the olives. If you are doing a small amount of olives, it may be affordable to use your expensive natural sea salt. If processing a larger volume of olives, use pickling salt that has no additives or you can use inexpensive rock salt (we use this for salt baths). This unprocessed solar dried salt can be purchased at home improvement stores for $5-$6 per 35 lb. bag. You can use it in the rock form, but I like to put in in the blender and grind it up as it dissolves better during pickling.
–Mix the olives and salt together.
– Slip the olives into a cotton bag or old pillowcase.
– Tie off the bag and hang either outside or inside. I have some hooks in the ceiling of my front porch or you can hang them inside a garage or other protected area. Keep in mind that the salt will pull dark liquid from the olives that can stain cement or walls. Be sure to put a bucket beneath the olives to catch this liquid. If you should hang the bag from a tree, keep in mind that the dark liquid is also very salty, which will kill plants. Some people say rain does not harm the olives, but if I hang them outside exposed to the elements, I make a rain jacket for them by cutting a corner from a plastic bag and slipping the rope through this small hole.
–Cure for 4 to 6 weeks. Once or twice per week, mix the olives. Simply lift up on the bottom of the bag and gently mix by rolling the olives around inside the bag. After a month or so, taste the olives
When the flavor is to your liking, the olives are done. These olives will naturally have more of a bitter flavor, but the bitterness lessens with curing time.
–Remove the olives from the bag and quickly rinse off excess salt. Drain well. Perhaps spreading out in a single layer may be a good idea if you are storing them long term.
-These olives are delicious to me just like this, but usually I dress them with herbs and olive oil, and store them in jars in a cool place for 3-6 months. They will keep a year or longer in the fridge.
– To dress the olives toss with enough organic olive oil to coat them. Fresh or dried herbs may be added such as rosemary, thyme, or oregano. I found that fresh garlic tends to grow mold, so if you like garlic add it to a smaller amount of olives and store in the refrigerator.
Fermentation + Macrobiotic Principles =
Eat “Local & Seasonal Microbes”
by Cynthia Briscoe
Macrobiotic guidelines are founded upon natural order. One such guideline is to eat local and seasonal foods. The premise is that food produced in the area in which you live is inherently synchronized with the climate zone, weather patterns and soil matrix. By ingesting local foods, we align our health with these particulars. To me, there is additional unsung benefit of eating locally and seasonally grown foods: We also partake of the indigenous microbes of the region.
The majority of food consumed is a jumble of cross-country products shipped east to west, north to south, and from different hemispheres. The modern profit-drive food industry entices everyone to join in the grab-bag chaos of processed convenience foods, mass produced sterile foods, fragments from whole foods, and even so-called “frankenfood” chemically constructed in laboratories. Unwittingly, people are constructing their cells, tissue and organs from this food removed from its natural origins. From these deconstructed foods, we attempt to put back the missing pieces with supplements and repair the damage with pharmaceuticals. Also damaged within the chain of modern food supply are health-giving microbes.
Within the last 15 years, technological advancements in DNA sequencing have exploded microbe identification and the mapping of the human microbiome (the composition, diversity, and ecology of microbes in and on the human body) previously not possible. The relationship of our health to the health of our human microbiome is unfolding as this unseen world is now being observed. Microbiologists believe that of the 100 trillion cells that compose our body, only 10% of those cells are human. The rest is all microbes! It only seems logical that that the healthy ecology of our personal microbes would benefit our individual health.
Who are we really if 90% of our DNA is microbial DNA? How does the health and diversity of our microbe community affect our health? This is certainly an interesting question. The microbe mapping is well underway, but the relationship of the human microbiome to human health is yet in the frontier stage of data collection and interpretation. Down the road, science hopes to connect the dots between diet and a healthy human microbiome. In the future, scientists predict that when we go for a medical checkup, instead of drawing blood, we will have our microbiome analyzed and adjusted.
Regardless of where you live, what nationality, or occupation, if you compare yourself to another human, you share 99.9% of your human genetic DNA. However, if you compare yourself to another human in terms of your microbiome, you share only 10% of your microbes respectively. As individual members of the human race, we are practically identical in our DNA composition. However, perhaps our unique individual identity lies within the composition of microbes that we host. Respectively that composition is greatly influenced by what kinds of food we choose to eat and how and where that food was produced.
Family members that live together and eat together share greater commonality in their microbiome. The air in our home, touching the food while preparing it, and even our pets contribute to the unique collective microbial ecology that family members share
By cooking together and eating together we may be sharing a whole lot more than conversation.
One significant way to increase your microbe health and diversity is to prepare your own fermented foods, in your own kitchen, from local organic produce. How much more “local and seasonal” can that be? Regular consumption of these naturally fermented foods, paired with a whole food diet can reverse a plethora of current health patterns such as inflammation, gluten sensitivity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, arthritis, diabetes…the list goes on and on.
Watch for the new online version of our “Make Your Own Fermented Foods Course” coming soon! If you’d like to be notified when this online course is available, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.