There are three main types of mustard, all in the Brassica (cabbage) family and all with small, rounded seeds. Relatively mild though still pungent, white mustard (Sinapis alba) originated in the Mediterranean and has pale yellow to gold seeds used mostly for prepared mustard and pickling spices. Pungent black mustard (Brassica nigra), which originated in Asia Minor, has smaller dark brown seeds; it’s important in Indian cooking. Easier to cultivate and less pungent, brown mustard (B. juncea), which originated in the Himalayas, has larger seeds and is widely used in Europe for prepared mustard.
Mustard has been cultivated since ancient times and has been an important spice in Europe since Roman times because, unlike many spices, it could be grown locally. Medieval European courts often employed a mustardarius, an official in charge of growing and preparing mustard. The first mustard companies date back to the mid-fourteenth century around Dijon, France. In 1804 in England, Jeremiah Colman developed a way (still used today) to make surprisingly hot powdered mustard from the oily seeds.
Mustard is second only to peppercorns as a spice in the United States, where most of it goes into mild, bright yellow ballpark mustard coloured with turmeric. In France, mild Bordeaux mustard is brown, slightly sweet, and often tarragon flavoured; strong Dijon mustard is smooth and pale yellow; mild moutarde de Meaux is made from coarsely crushed mustard seeds. In Düsseldorf, Germany’s mustard capital, löwensenf (lion’s mustard) is a pungent mustard similar to Dijon made from black mustard seeds. Sweet Bavarian mustard is made from coarsely ground white mustard seeds, honey, and herbs. In Italy, mustard flavours mostarda di frutta, a spicy fruit relish, but is rarely used on its own.
Whole white mustard seeds are used to season pickles, sausage, and sauerkraut in Europe and North America. In India, black mustard seeds are commonly toasted or fried in a little oil until they pop and acquire a grayish hue. Frying changes the character of the seeds so they are nutty and mild. Though black mustard seed oil is used as a flavouring and for cooking in India, it may contain harmful compounds, so it’s illegal to sell it for food use in most Western countries. Indian food shops often sell mustard oil labeled “for external use only.” As is done in India, mustard oil should be heated to a high temperature then cooled before further cooking, a process that is thought to be useful for detoxification.
- Other Names
- White mustard: Bach gioi tu (Vietnamese); chieh (Chinese); gorchitsa belaya (Russian); hardal lavan (Hebrew); khardal (Arabic); mostarda branca (Portuguese); mostaza Silvestre (Spanish); moutarde blanche (French); netch senafich (Amharic); senape biancha (Italian); sinapi agrio (Greek); weisser senf (German). Black mustard: Cai den (Vietnamese); gai lat (Chinese); haradali (Swahili); hardal shahor (Hebrew); khardal aswad (Arabic); mostarda (Portuguese); mostaza negra (Spanish); moutarde noire (French); rai (Hindi); ¬_schwarzer senf_ (German); shiro-karashi (Japanese); sinapi mauro (Greek); tikur senafich (Amharic). Brown mustard: Indian mustard; Indischer senf (German); mostaza de Indias (Spanish); moutarde brune (French).
- Purchase and Avoid
- Buy yellow mustard seeds for pickling mixtures, black mustard seeds for Indian cooking, or mustard powder to make English- or Chinese-style prepared hot mustard. Buy prepared mustard to use as a condiment.
Mix Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, garlic, olive oil, chopped thyme, salt, and pepper and use to coat rack or leg of lamb before roasting.
Make pork curry vindaloo with toasted mustard seeds and mustard oil.
Seafood dishes, atjars and pickles are greatly enhanced when flavoured with mustard seeds.
Add whole mustard seeds to atjar masala for a more pungent flavour.
Whole white mustard seed is used in pickling spice and in spice mixtures for cooking meats and seafood. It adds piquancy to Sauerkraut and is sometimes used in marinades.
In India, whole seeds are fried in ghee until the seed pops, producing a milder nutty flavour that is useful as a garnish or seasoning for other Indian dishes.
The brown seed is also pounded with other spices in the preparation of curry powders and pastes.
Mustard oil is made from B. juncea, providing a piquant oil widely used in India in the same way as ghee.
Powdered mustard acts as an emulsifier in the preparation of mayonnaise and salad dressings. Powdered mustard is also useful for flavouring barbecue sauces, baked beans, many meat dishes, deviled eggs, beets and succotash.
There are many ready-made mustards from mild and sweet to sharp and strong. They can be smooth or coarse and flavoured with a wide variety of herbs, spices and liquids.
American ballpark-style mustard is made from the white seeds and blended with sugar and vinegar and coloured with turmeric.
Bordeaux mustard is made from black seeds blended with unfermented wine. The seeds are not husked, producing a strong, aromatic, dark brown mustard often flavoured with tarragon.
Dijon mustard is made from the husked black seeds blended with wine, salt and spices. It is pale yellow and varies from mild to very hot. This is the mustard generally used in classic French mustard sauces, salad dressings and mayonnaise.
English mustard is hot, made from white seeds and is sometimes mixed with wheat flour for bulk and turmeric for colour.
German mustard is usually a smooth blend of vinegar and black mustard, varying in strength. Weisswurstsenf is a course grained, pale, mild mustard made to accompany veal sausages like Bratwurst.
Meaux mustard is the partly crushed, partly ground black seed mixed with vinegar, producing a crunchy, hot mustard that perks up bland foods.
Category: Spices and Herbs
Sub Category: Spice
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