Mustard is one of those essential components in cooking. even if you're not really into the pungent flavour and violent assault on the sinuses a smear of the yellow stuff brings its an essential addition to cheese sauces, pickles and salad dressings. There is a range of fancy mustards out there, but the prices are almost as eye-watering as the mustard itself! But mustard is really cheap and easy to make at home, all you need is a blender or food processor.
Like the aqueduct, roads, irrigation & sanitation, the Romans were responsible for giving us a paste of unfermented grape must & mustard seeds called mustum ardens - mustard. Dijon in France became the center of mustard making in the 13th century, and is still the mustard capital of the world.
Mustard has been around in the UK for hundreds of years, and was mentioned in Shakespeare's Henry IV part 2 (The Revenge).
The main ingredient of mustard is mustard seeds, of which there are three varieties; Sinapis hirta, which produces yellow mustard seeds (the powdered stuff in the Colmans tins & basis of American hot dog mustard), Brassica juncea, which gives us brown or Indian mustard & Brassica nigra, which produces black mustard. From these three, you can create a baffling range of condiments. You can buy bags of mustard seeds from Asian or international grocers, which are much cheaper than those tiny little jars at the supermarket. You can also buy mustard seeds bulk online.
At its simplest, mustard is a paste of ground mustard seeds, water & salt. The vivid yellow English mustard is usually made this way, maybe with a dash of lemon juice too. With a hot, wasabi-like kick to it, it's an acquired taste. Fresh mustard is very pungent, but mellows with storage. If you like the sensation of having liquid nitrogen blasted up your nose, store it in the fridge, where the cold will slow down the mellowing process. Mustard can be stored indefinitely, so when Cthulhu & his Excessively Tentacled Kin finally get their arses into gear there'll be something to help the human brains go down easier.
But we're doing something a bit more special here. You could use water to make mustard, but wheres the fun in that? Mustard is traditionally made with vinegar (which gives a milder mustard) or unfermented grape juice (used in making Dijon mustard), but you can use anything. There are old recipes that use beef broth, though I prefer beer or cider.
So here is a quick & simple recipe for cider & honey mustard that will fill 5 or 6 small jars.
Cider & Honey Mustard
175g (1 cup) yellow mustard seeds
175g (1 cup) black mustard seeds
150ml cider vinegar
1 tbs salt
Tip the mustard seeds in a large bowl & pour over the cider. Cover & leave overnight.
Next day, add the remaining ingredients & pour into a blender or food processor. Blend to whatever consistency you like. If you want a coarse wholegrain mustard, just give it a few pulses. If you want something a bit smoother, blend for longer. It's not an exact science, just blitz until you like the look of it. If you want a smoother mustard, blend it thoroughly and push through a sieve. But that is a bit of a faff, really.
The mustard will look a little bit runny at first, but after 10 minutes, some SCIENCE will occur and it will thicken up (though probably not as thick as commercially made mustard, it'll still be good for spreading & smearing). Pour or spoon into sterilised jars & seal.
The hardest part is waiting, as the mustard needs a couple of weeks storage for the flavours to mellow and mature. Once opened, store in the fridge.
So now you have the basics, you can start to experiment! Here are a few ideas...
Fresh herbs: a tbs or two of finely chopped parsley, tarragon, chives or mint stirred in at the end. Finely chopped garlic or shallots work well too.
Spices: 2 or 3 tbs of sweet, hot or smoked paprika. Yum!
Vinegars: this recipe uses cider vinegar, but you can use white wine, red wine, fruit or even balsamic vinegars instead.
Sweeteners: mustard needs a touch of sweetness. Demerara, maple syrup, muscovado, apple concentrate, date syrup & agave nectar are some of the other things you can use instead of honey.
Until next time!