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.