Grey Poupon

Mustard is a condiment made from the seeds of a mustard plant (white or yellow mustard, brown or Indian mustard, or black mustard). The whole, ground, cracked, or bruised mustard seeds are mixed with water, salt, lemon juice, or other liquids, and sometimes other flavorings and spices, to create a paste or sauce ranging in color from bright yellow to dark brown. English mustard is among the strongest, made from only mustard flour, water, salt and, sometimes, lemon juice; but not with vinegar.

French-style Dijon mustard has added vinegar, and is milder. Bavarian sweet mustard is milder still. Homemade mustards are often far hotter and more intensely flavored than commercial preparations. A strong mustard can cause the eyes to water, sting the palate, and inflame the nasal passages and throat. Mustard can also cause allergic reactions. As a cream or a seed, mustard is used in the cuisine of India, the Mediterranean, northern Europe, the Balkan States, Asia, North America, and Africa, making it one of the most popular and widely used spices and condiments in the world.

Romans were probably the first to experiment with the preparation of mustard as a condiment. They mixed unfermented grape juice, known as ‘must,’ with ground mustard seeds (called ‘sinapis’) to make ‘burning must,’ ‘mustum ardens’ — hence ‘must ard.’ A recipe for mustard appears in a 4th century Roman cookbook; the recipe calls for a mixture of ground mustard, pepper, caraway, lovage, grilled coriander seeds, dill, celery, thyme, oregano, onion, honey, vinegar, fish sauce, and oil, and was intended as a glaze for spit-roasted boar.

The Romans likely exported mustard seed to Gaul (Western Europe), and, by the 10th century, monks of St. Germain des Pres in Paris absorbed the mustard-making knowledge of Romans and began their own production. The first appearance of mustard makers on the royal registers in Paris dates back to 1292. Dijon, France, became a recognized center for mustard making by the 13th century. The popularity of mustard in Dijon is evidenced by written accounts of guests consuming 70 gallons of mustard creme in a single sitting at a gala held by the Duke of Burgundy in 1336. In 1777, one of the most famous Dijon mustard makers, Grey-Poupon, was established as a partnership between Maurice Grey, a mustard maker with a unique recipe containing white wine, and Auguste Poupon, his financial backer. Their success was aided by the introduction of the first automatic mustard-making machine. In 1937, Dijon mustard was granted an Appellation d’origine contrôlée (the French certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wines and cheeses). Due to its long tradition of mustard making, Dijon is regarded as the mustard capital of the world.

An early use of mustard as a condiment in England was in the form of mustard balls — coarse-ground mustard seed combined with flour and cinnamon, moistened, rolled into balls, and dried — which were easily stored and combined with vinegar or wine to make mustard paste as needed. The town of Tewkesbury was well known for its high-quality mustard balls, which were exported to London and other parts of the country, and are even mentioned in William Shakespeare’s play ‘King Henry the Fourth, Part II.’ The use of mustard as a hot dog condiment was first seen at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, when the bright-yellow French’s mustard was introduced by the R.T. French Company.

Mustard is often used at the table as a condiment on meat. It is also used as an ingredient in mayonnaise, vinaigrette, marinades, and barbecue sauce. It can also be used as a base for salad dressing when combined with vinegar and/or olive oil. Mustard is a popular accompaniment to hot dogs, pretzels, and bratwurst. Mustard as an emulsifier can stabilize a mixture of two or more immiscible liquids, such as oil and water. Added to Hollandaise sauce, mustard can reduce the possibility of curdling. Dry mustard, typically sold in cans, is used in cooking and can be mixed with water to become prepared mustard. As a condiment, mustard averages approximately five calories per teaspoon. Mustard seeds are high in are selenium and omega 3 fatty acid.

The many varieties of mustard come in a wide range of strengths and flavors. The basic taste and ‘heat’ of the mustard is determined largely by seed type, preparation, and ingredients. In general, black-seed mustard is regarded as the hottest type. Preparation also plays a key role in the final outcome of the mustard. One factor that determines the strength of a prepared mustard is the temperature of the water, vinegar, or other liquid mixed with the ground seeds; hotter liquids denature the enzymes causing the strength-producing compounds. Thus, hot mustard is made with cold water, whereas using hot water results in milder mustard (other factors remaining the same). The pungency of mustard is always reduced by heating, but not just at the time of preparation; if added to a dish during cooking, much of the effect of the mustard is lost. Mustard, in its powdered form, lacks any potency and needs to soak in water for gustatory heat to emerge.

Because of its antibacterial properties, mustard does not require refrigeration; it will not grow mold, mildew, or harmful bacteria. Unrefrigerated mustard will lose pungency more quickly, and should be stored in a tightly sealed, sterilized container in a cool, dark place. Mustard can last indefinitely, though it may dry out, lose flavor, or brown from oxidation. Mixing in a small amount of wine or vinegar will often revitalize dried out mustard. Some types of prepared mustard stored for a long time may separate, causing ‘mustard water,’ which can be corrected by stirring or shaking. If stored for a long time, unrefrigerated mustard can acquire a bitter taste.

Locations renowned for their mustard include Dijon (medium-strength) and Meaux in France; Norwich (very hot) and Tewkesbury, famed for its variety, in the United Kingdom; and Düsseldorf (hot) and Bavaria in Germany. They vary in the subsidiary spices and in the preparation of the mustard seeds. The husks may be ground with the seeds, or winnowed away after the initial crushing; ‘whole-grain mustard’ retains some unground or partially ground mustard seeds. Bavarian ‘sweet mustard’ contains very little acid, substituting copious amounts of sugar for preservation. Sometimes, prepared mustard is simmered to moderate its bite; sometimes, it is aged. Irish mustard is a whole-grain type blended with whiskey, stout (commonly Guinness), and/or honey.

American mustard is the most commonly used mustard in the United States and Canada, where it is usually referred to simply as ‘mustard.’ This is a very mild mustard colored bright-yellow by the inclusion of turmeric. It was introduced in 1904 by George T. French as ‘cream salad mustard.’ Yellow mustard can be rubbed on barbecue meat prior to applying a dry rub, to form a crust, called bark, on the meat. Spicy brown or ‘deli style’ mustard is also commonly used in the United States. The seeds are coarsely ground, giving it a speckled brownish-yellow appearance. In general, it is spicier than yellow mustard. Spicy brown or ‘deli-style’ or Indian mustard (include Madras or curry powder) is used in the cuisine of India. American beer mustard, substituting beer for vinegar, originated in the 20th century somewhere in the Midwest and has remained a popular local condiment.

Dijon mustard is not covered by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) under the auspices of the European Union; thus, while there are major mustard plants in Dijon and suburbs, most Dijon mustard is manufactured outside of Dijon. Dijon mustard originated in 1856, when Jean Naigeon of Dijon substituted verjuice, the acidic ‘green’ juice of not-quite-ripe grapes, for vinegar in the traditional mustard recipe. In general, mustards from Dijon today contain both white wine and red wine. Mustards marketed as Dijon-style may contain one or both of these wines or may substitute vinegar or another acid in order to conform to local laws.

Variations of sweet mustards include honey mustard, spiced honey mustard, maple mustard, brown sugar and pecan mustard, prickly pear honey mustard, sesame ginger mustard, and sweet and hot mustard. Honey mustard, as the name suggests, is a blend of mustard and honey, usually 1:1. Combinations of English mustard with honey or demerara sugar are popularly used in British cuisine to coat grilled lamb cutlets or pork chops. Peppers and spices are sometimes added to give honey mustard a distinct spicy taste. Fruit and mustard have been combined since the Lombard creation of ‘mostarda di frutta’ in the 14th century. Large chunks of fruit preserved in a sweet, hot mustard syrup were served with meat and game, and were said to be a favorite of the Dukes of Milan. Variations of fruit mustards include apple mustard, apricot-ginger mustard, berry mustard, cranberry mustard, lemon mustard, orange and honey mustard, and pineapple and honey mustard.

Variations of hot mustards include chipotle pepper, habanero pepper, horseradish, and jalapeño mustards. However, in general, ‘hot mustards’ do not refer to mustards with chili peppers added. Instead, the term usually refers to the mustards that have been prepared in such a way to bring out the natural piquancy. When mustard seeds are crushed and mixed with cold water, its constituents break down to form a volatile oil that vaporizes to produce the ‘hot’ sensation one experiences when consuming hot mustards. Usually, additives like flour are used by manufacturers to tone down this natural spicy/pungent flavor to produce the milder mustards popularly consumed.


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