By Dorothy Long
Mustard is one of those ingredients that inspires. It adds zip and zing; a bit or a lot of heat and plenty of BAM! as the famous television chef Emeril liked to say. Mustard kicks it up a notch!
Mustard is an ancient seed used globally for centuries to spice up foods and as a condiment. As with many old world ingredients, mustard was not only consumed but often used medicinally, and in particular, to help cure the common cold. The culinary roots of this sharp flavored spice run deep and wide and it has become a notable tradition in many cultures.
In Europe, mustard has been an important spice since Roman times. In fact, Medieval European courts often employed a mustardarius whose official duties were to grow and prepare mustard.
Over the centuries, France developed three distinct styles of mustard. They include the mild Bordeaux, a brown, slightly sweet and often tarragon flavored condiment; the strong Dijon mustard, a smooth, pale yellow style made with white wine; and the very mild Meaux mustard that is made from coarsely crushed mustard seed.
What would a German sausage be without mustard? In Germany, two general styles of mustard have emerged. Löwensenf, a pungent mustard similar to Dijon but made from black or brown mustard seed and a sweet Bavarian mustard made from coarsely ground yellow or white mustard seeds, honey and herbs.
Britain developed the robust, hardy English styled mustard made from finely ground mustard powder, wheat flour and tumeric.
In Asia, both Japan and China have used mustard as a condiment for centuries.
While America is famous for the bright yellow ballpark mustard which no self-respecting hot dog would be without. The bright yellow color comes from the addition of turmeric. The flavor is mild compared to other mustards but with a hint of the sharp taste.
Other popular mustards include sweet mustards flavored with honey, syrup or sugar. Mustards are also easily seasoned with herbs, spices, vegetables and even fruit! There are literally hundreds of flavored mustards from all over the world. In fact, the Mustard Museum in Wisconsin holds the largest collection at over 6,000 different prepared mustards.
What do all of these mustards have in common?
Well, the seed used to make them was probably grown in Canada. Canada exports the most mustard seed in the world and sends it to customers around the globe.
Types of Mustard
Mustards are part of the brassica or cabbage family of plants. There are three basic varieties grown on the Canada prairies for condiment mustard.
- Yellow or White Mustard is best known as the main ingredient in North America’s traditional hot dog mustard and as a pickling spice. It is a mellow mustard with minimal heat.
- Brown Mustard has a dark brown seed coat and is used in the manufacturing of Dijon style mustards. Brown mustard is also used in combination with yellow in the making of English-style mustard.
- Oriental Mustard is the golden yellow seed coat colored version of Brassica juncea. The main market for oriental mustard is Asia where it is used as a condiment in Japanese cuisine and as source of cooking oil in some other Asian countries. Both brown and oriental mustard have more heat than yellow mustard.
Mustard is available in grocery stores in many forms from seed used mainly in pickling spices to finely ground powders. Mustard is also, of course, available in many different styles as a condiment. Specialty shops carry imported mustards and many places boost local food processors that have developed their own condiment mustards. It is fun to try new flavors, especially when you know that it was grown and produced locally.
Cooking with Mustard
Mustard seeds are not pungent until they are broken and liquid is added. Adding liquid causes an enzyme reaction, which in turn produces the hot flavor. Yellow mustard seed loses heat over time unless preserved; while brown or oriental mustard retains the heat. Cooking mustard reduces the hot flavour, so add it near the end of preparation. Mustard also aids in binding sauces and helps to emulsify oils in vinaigrettes and mayonnaise.
Mustard should be refrigerated after opening to preserve its quality.
Nutritional Benefits of Mustard
Mustard has many characteristics which make it a great choice for adding flavor to what we eat, but is also low in calories and cholesterol. A tablespoon of yellow mustard seed has about 50 calories, which isn’t much considering the amount of flavour mustard seed delivers.
Mustard seed is also high in plant-based protein and contains good amounts of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and niacin. Mustard seed contains glucosinolates, which have been tested by medical researchers for benefits such as decreasing blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels as well as having antioxidant properties.
So, why not let mustard inspire your next meal? Kick it up a notch with mustard! Enjoy these recipes featuring mustard.
Recipes and photos courtesy of spreadthemustard.com