Traverse City Record-Eagle

Food

June 12, 2014

Nancy Krcek Allen: Customize your condiments with mustard

Most mustard aficionados begin life with French’s yellow mustard on summer dogs and burgers. Sweet mustard usually follows.

A mustard lover’s taste buds move to the height of mustards — creamy, refined Dijon or rustic, grainy, spicy mustard — as mustard passion increases. This step signals a readiness to move on to making mustard at home.

Spring triggers mustard plant blooms from California’s rolling hills and valleys to Canada’s vast prairie lands, fertile France and throughout India. There are three varieties of mustard, all members of the Cruciferae family — relatives of cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and kale. Brassica alba or hirta (white or yellow) and Brassica nigra (black) are indigenous to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Brassica juncea (brown) is indigenous to the northern Himalayas.

Mustard condiments aren’t hard to make. Liquids activate ground mustard’s enzymes and bring out its aroma and flavor. Add water to powdered mustard (like Colman’s) and allow it to sit ten minutes to create a simple mustard condiment. The pungency declines after an hour unless you add an acid (like vinegar, wine, flat beer or citrus juice), which stabilizes flavor and contributes to a mustard mixture’s complexity.

Experiment in small batches. Blend brown and yellow seeds. Crush seeds with a mortar and pestle for coarse mustard or grind in a spice/coffee grinder until fine. Add commercially ground mustard — it’s much finer and will impart creaminess.

In a non-metallic bowl, mix two parts ground mustard to one part water for a thick paste. (Mustard can corrode most metals so keep and metal lids and utensils away from mustard.) Rest 10 minutes and combine with salt, spices (like turmeric), herbs and other seasonings (like roasted garlic or caramelized shallots). Stir in an acidic liquid (cider, white wine, red wine or balsamic vinegars; citrus, wine, flat beer or juice) until a mustard-like consistency is achieved.

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