As a condiment, mustard is both ancient and vital to many cuisines. Originating in India and adapted in the paste we know today by ancient Romans, the tiny seeds pack a powerful punch.
Recipes for mustard pulses showed up in Roman cookbooks as far back at the 4th century AD. Their empire’s expansion into Europe led to the establishment of mustard as a staple in cooking and medicine in the Western world and beyond.
Mustard has a mighty range of uses that go far beyond it’s compact package. It is the source of emulsifiers, antibacterial pastes, even Biblical analogies. Yet mustard is so omnipresent in our culinary culture that it is easy to take this spicy sauce for granted.
Many store-bought mustard are excellent – and pricey. And the mass produced bright yellow mortar that glues together ball park hotdogs and soggy steamed buns has sacrificed its unique flavor profiles on the alter of commonality.
But mustard is easy to make at home, and requires only a few common ingredients. If you want the best and most pungent mustard, make it yourself. Like any home recipe, you can tweak the flavors to create your own signature formula great for burgers, barbecues, soft pretzels, potato salads and glazes.
If you’re looking to make your own mustard, there’s a little chemistry to be aware of. How hot your mustard is going to be depends upon the type of seed, regardless whether its whole or ground. White or yellow mustard seeds have the mildest heat, and the brown and black seeds carry the most heat and the most sinus-clearing power.
And dry mustard, whether whole or ground, has no real heat by itself. It is only when it interacts with water that it takes on the strong flavors we recognize. Mustard seeds contain an enzyme that needs to be activated by liquid to produce the heat we expect from this spicy condiment. The more acid in the liquid (like vinegar or wine) the slower the activation takes place, but the longer the the heat will last over time. Mustard made with low acid liquids, such as grape juice and especially pure water, will be extremely hot and flavorful when freshly made. But the flavor and kick will diminish must faster.
Heat has an adverse effect on the enzymes (as it does on all enzymes), so for mustard with the longest burn, use a cold liquid.
Even a mustard made with lots of vinegar or other acid and kept cold will still lose its heat over time. You can expect your mustard to carry a fresh, snappy bite for 4 -6 months, depending upon how you store it.
Your freshly made mustard will probably have more bitterness than your store bought supply, but that bitterness will fade after a couple of days of mellowing.
You can specialize in a particular style of mustard, but having more than one recipe in your culinary arsenal only makes you stronger.
These are the three I make the most often, and they cover a whole range of uses:
Actually, Dijon style. While I don’t think the French are as picky about provenance regarding their mustard as they are their wine, this paste is named for the region where it originated. It carries a lot of spice because it is made with a blend of yellow and brown seeds, finely ground, and a low acid liquid, typically white wine and white vinegar, with a higher proportion of water. This is the one for sauces, vinaigrette, aioli, and marinades, because of its smooth texture.
You will need to have:
- 1 cup of a 50/50 blend of yellow and brown mustard seed
- 1 1/2 cup of a dry white wine. I like to use a brut champagne
- 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar
- 1 cup of water, cold
- 1/4 cup of dry mustard, Colemans is what I use
- 1 tblspn onion powder
- 1 tblspn garlic powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
Then you will need to do:
To extract the flavors and make the seeds easy to grind, soak the mustard seeds by combining all the ingredients in a 32 ounce glass jar of other nonreactive container that can be sealed with a lid. Close up and refrigerate for 8-12 hours, up to 24 hours. Give the jar a shake every couple hours to distribute the flavors and make sure the seeds are soaking.
Use a stick blender, or transfer the mixture to a blender of high speed food processor and blend to a fine puree. The blend is going to be very spicy, so I actually use heat to mellow and combine the flavor. Put the mix into a saucepan and heat over medium flame until it begins to just bubble. Reduce heat to low and stir often. Reduce the excess liquid by about 1/3rd. You don’t want a paste, but it should not be too thin. If it gets too thick, add a few tablespoons of white wine or water. Remove from heat and transfer to a glass or other non reactive container, and let chill in the refrigerator. Then seal and allow to mellow for a couple of days before use.
For even longer storage, use a canning procedure to sanitize some glass jars and preserve. Should last at least 6 months in the fridge.
This is the vital blend of rough seed and smooth texture that goes so well on sandwiches and is a great match with meats and cheeses. A higher proportion of brown mustard seed and less acid gives this version a stronger bite.
You will need to have:
- 1 cup of white wine vinegar
- 1 1/4 cup water, cold
- 1 cup of 25/75 blend of yellow and brown mustard seeds, heavier on the brown
- 1/2 tspn of turmeric (gives it that bright yellow color and and earthy flavor)
- 1 tsp of Kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp of ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp of ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp fine ground black pepper
Then you will need to do:
Soak the mustard seeds in the vinegar and water mix overnight in a 32 ounce glass jar of other nonreactive container that can be sealed with a lid at room temperature for 24 hours. Give the jar a shake every couple hours to distribute the flavors and make sure the seeds are soaking.
Use an stick blender or transfer the mix into a blender or high speed food processor. Add the salt, turmeric, coriander, ginger, nutmeg and pepper and puree until smooth. Not going for the same level of smoothness as with the Dijon style, so expect to see bits of seed.
Transfer to a glass or nonreactive container that can be sealed and close it up. To let the flavors develop and the bitterness fade let it set in the refrigerator for a couple of days before using.
This is my personal favorite. I love to use it on cheese trays, for marinades, and even in potato salad. Some recipes grind or mash the seeds but I like skip that and just keep the whole grain, nicely softened and with perfect texture.
- 1 cup 50/50 blend of yellow and brown mustard seeds
- 1/2 cup white wine, dry
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water, cold
- 1 tblspn Kosher salt
- 1 tblspn brown sugar
- 1 tblspn minced tarragon, dry or fresh
Soak the mustard seeds in the wine, vinegar and water mix in a glass or nonreactive container at room temperature for 48 hours.
Add the salt, garlic, sugar, and tarragon and stir to combine. The seeds should have absorbed a great deal of the liquid but it may be necessary to drain some excess liquid off. You want the seeds to be moist and clump together, but not be swimming in the acid mix.
Transfer to a glass or nonreactive container that can be sealed, close it up and regfrigerate. To let the flavors develop and the bitterness fade let it set in the refrigerator for a couple of days before using.
All in all you mustard should retain their potent kick, their sharp bite, and their mellow flavor for about 4 – 6 months if they remain closed and refrigerated when not in use. But if you haven’t consumed them well before then… maybe you’re not cutting the mustard the way you thought.