All of us have tried some version of prepared mustard - from the standard American classic of yellow mustard (of ballparks and barbeque fame) to those made with wine and honey. But don’t be fooled into thinking that mustard seeds can’t be a wonderful addition to your spice cabinet! You’ll savor these powerful little seeds as they add depth as a baseline flavor to numerous cuisines and recipes.
Types of Mustard Seeds
There are four versions of mustard seeds which can be grouped in pairs – yellow and white in one and black and brown in the other.
The origination of mustard seeds can be traced to various regions of Asia and Europe with the brown mustard seeds being native to the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, black mustard seeds from the Middle East and the white or yellow variety originating in the eastern Mediterranean region. Mustard seeds date back almost 5,000 years and are mentioned in ancient Sanskrit writings.
Related to cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, mustard seeds are from the mustard plant. There are more than 40 varieties of mustard plants but the culinary seeds come from primarily three plants – black mustard, brown mustard and white mustard. The difference between them is more one of potency than of flavor. When ground, mustard seeds release a pungent smell and roasting them gives them an earthy aroma. Black seeds have a strong flavor, brown seeds are a bit bitter, then turning hot and aromatic and yellow (also called white) seeds are at first a bit sweet.
The potent brown and black seeds are more popular in Indian cuisine and especially in curries where they lend a more subtle heat than chiles or peppercorns.
One of the most popular and under appreciated spices in the world, mustard seeds grow best in temperate climates and the largest producers are currently Canada, Great Britain, Hungary, India and the US. Our Yellow Mustard Seeds are harvested in Canada.
Making Your Own Mustard
If you are about to make your own mustard for the first time it is good to know that the temperature of the liquid used when mixing is critical. If you want maximum heat then blend it with a very cold liquid, for a milder mustard flavor blend the powder with a hot liquid. And don’t forget to take into consideration which heat level of mustard powder you start with. One more helpful hint is that refrigerating once you have achieved your desired heat level will bringing the mellowing process to almost a complete and immediate halt.
Making your own prepared mustard recipe is ridiculously simple. Grind your mustard seeds in a coffee grinder and then add to a small bowl. Then add enough water, wine or vinegar to cover the powder (we like to use about ¼ cup of ground mustard to 3 tablespoons of liquid). Let sit for about 20 minutes and then add in other spices and herbs and mix into a smooth paste. You may need to add a bit more liquid depending on how much additional seasoning you add. Some of our favorite spices and herbs to use in making homemade mustard are mint, ginger, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic, turmeric and tarragon. Experiment and develop your own unique flavor.
To make your own whole grain mustard here is a simple recipe – 1/3 cup yellow mustard seeds, ¼ cup dry mustard, ½ cup cold water, 2 tbsp white vinegar and 2 tbsp honey (or ¼ cup granulated honey). Mix thoroughly, transfer to a jar, close tightly and place in your refrigerator to “cure” for 2 weeks. This helps it thicken. At the end of two weeks taste test and adjust the flavor (more honey, vinegar, etc.).
We get many questions on mustard seeds. A dry mustard is when the mustard seed is ground up (also called ground mustard or mustard powder). A “prepared mustard” or “made mustard” is dry mustard that is mixed with spices and herbs and then a liquid such as beer, water, wine or vinegar. A whole grain mustard is the whole mustard seed that is mixed with spices, herbs and then a liquid such as beer, water, wine or vinegar.
Whole mustard seeds have no noticeable aroma but once ground they are a bit pungent. Cooking releases an acrid, earthy aroma.
We love using homemade mustard in deviled eggs, ham, cheese, pork and bean dishes, in cocktail and barbeque sauces, and in soups or chowders.
Ground and whole mustard seed adds flavor to sauces (hollandaise sauce in particular), dressings, and mayonnaise as well as grilled and roasted beef, cabbage, strong cheeses, chicken, curries, dals, fish, and seafood, cold meats, rabbit, sausages and barbecue rubs.
In England cooks use mustard with ham and roast beef, In the Caribbean it is an ingredient in sauces for fruit, and in India the nutty flavor of the mustard seed is intensified by cooking in hot oil before adding it to chutneys, curries, and sauces. Mustard seeds are also popular in pickling spices.
Mustard also works well when paired with bay, chili, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, honey, nigella, parsley, pepper, tarragon and turmeric.
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