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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mustered Mustard Musings

The most challenging task for today's post was coming up with an enticing title. Sure, I could have just titled it Happy National Mustard Day (celebrated annually on the first Saturday in August) or simply Mustard Day but that just wasn't going to cut it. I originally thought "Not Without Mustard" would be the best lure and yet, it just didn't seem to blend. How difficult could it be? I know dabs of this and dabs of that about mustard. Heck, I've even mustered up a few of my own mustard concoctions through the years. How difficult could it be to come up with a label for mustard day? After mulling around and researching an assortment of sources, I decided on Mustered Mustard Musings. Say that fast 3x! Apparently, not everyone has a hard time coming up with a title that's as "keen as mustard."

Seeds of Pungency

Mustard comes from the same botanical family as cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cress. The aroma and flavor of mustard comes from the essential oil of the tiny mustard seed. Mustard becomes pungent when the crushed seeds are mixed with cold water to activate the appropriate enzymes. Powdered mustard has essentially no aroma until it is moistened. Boiling water, applied to the dormant enzymes kills them, vinegar inhibits them, and both create a weak aroma but bitter taste. Mustard seed and seed products are used extensively in the food industry, in meats, sausages, processed vegetables, and relishes. Mustard is the second most-used spice in the United States, its popularity exceeded only by the peppercorn. Mustard seeds are processed to yield mustard flour, ground mustard, powdered dry mustard, prepared mustard, and mustard paste. There are two basic styles of mustard: those that are smooth and those that contain whole or rough ground seeds. I left an extensive mustard glossary in the resource section but, here's a grain of the different kinds of mustards.

White mustard:
is generally used for flavoring. The white mustard seeds are the traditional seeds used in yellow mustard or Ball Park mustard. (mixed with salt, spices vinegar, and turmeric which enhances the golden color.) Ball Park mustard was first manufactured in America around 1904 by George T. French as "Cream Salad Mustard." It has become the standard for “Classic Yellow” mustard in America and has been owned by British food company Reckitt Benckiser since 1926. White mustard seed is also used as a spice in cucumber pickling.
Black and Brown mustards:
are generally used for aroma. They produce the hottest mustard, especially the black which is more difficult to grow. They are popular in Indian cooking in a range of dishes from curries and lentils to bread and breadsticks. Brown mustard seeds are usually found in prepared English mustard along with other ingredients such as capers, white wine, vinegar or water. Originally, many mustards were made with black mustard seeds but many preparations now use brown mustard seed which is easily available.
Creole Mustard:
was first introduced to New Orleans by a German man by the name of Mr. Wolff. I found a documented interview with Mr. Emile Zatarain, president of Zatarain Food Products regarding the introduction of creole mustard to New Orleans. I left the link below. It's an image file and rather short and enlightening. Creole Mustard, or grainy mustard as it is sometimes called, is a variation of wholegrain mustard where the seeds are slightly crushed. They are not ground nor are they whole. Creole style mustard is mostly found today in Mississippi and Louisiana. Creole Mustard can be used as a substitute for classic yellow mustard in most recipes. I believe, creole mustard usually has some horseradish in its basic recipe. Mine does anyway!
Garlic Mustard:
Garlic mustard is also in the Mustard family. Garlic mustard was introduced in North America as a culinary herb in the 1860s. The leaves, flowers and fruit are edible and are best when they are freshly sprouted. The sprouts have a mild flavor of both garlic and mustard, and are used in salads and pesto. It can also be steamed, simmered, or sautéed. In Europe, they use it in sauces. Cook no longer than five minutes, or the leaves will become mushy. Like other members of the mustard seed families, garlic mustard was also once used for medicinal purposes. Garlic mustard can be very invasive in the garden

Mustard's Valor Women

According to George and Berthe Herter in their book Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes, "the finest mustard the world has ever know was invented by an Italian woman by the name of Lucrezia Borgia. The book states, "she tried literally thousands of different spices, flavors, and oils. she finally discovered that anise flavoring added to mustard gave it a clean, crisp, spice taste and takes away its raw irritating taste." Here is the recipe. I have tried this speciality mustard concoction and no one is ever the wiser. I used French's mustard as the base.

To every six level tablespoons of mustard add one-eighth level teaspoon of anise flavoring. Stir it in well and let stand for at least one hour before serving.

In 1720 a Mrs. Clements of Tewkesbury, England founded the modern era for mustard making by milling the center of the seed into a fine flour. She used a similar processes used in the making of flour from wheat. Its pungency and taste were far superior to any mustard that had been produced before. It quickly became the standard process for use as a seasoning in cooking and for preparing mustard sauce. Mrs Clements was awarded a patent for her mustard by King George I. In 1804, Jeremiah Colman started producing his now famous mustard, which is still prepared by a similar process. (source)

Colman's Mustard & Recipes

Mustard was first exported from the British Isles by Jeremiah Colman, the man who founded Colman's Mustard, in 1814. According to Barry Levenson, curator of the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum in Wisconsin, "Colman’s is the classic ‘clean’ English mustard, where all the heat comes from the mustard itself." Through the years, the very recognizable yellow tin for Colman’s Mustard hasn’t changed much. Pictured below is a scanned recipe for Chow Chow from 12 New Recipes with Colman's Mustard which was probably published around 1936.

For more than 100 years Colman's Mustard has been the standard of quality. Colman's is a dry English Mustard made from only the choicest of English Mustard seeds, the finest in the world...Great chefs and great wives the world over find colman's Mustard indispensable. They use it as frequently as they do salt and pepper...Insure YOUR success in the preparation of these recipes by using Colman's Mustard.

There's a limited supply of recipes in the Colman's recipe book so I left a few recipe links below. This recipe for Pickled Mustard Eggs, I specially harvested for T.W. over at Culinary Types. Recently, T.W. has been quite the pickler (is that even a word?) and I thought perhaps, pickled eggs may be his next endeavor:)

Mostarda

One of my favorite ways to use the hot spiciness of mustard was taught to me by my paternal grandmother who came to this country in 1909. It was a favorite treat at Christmas time although, she prepared it often. I'm not sure how to describe it but it's sort of like an Italian chutney. I know it as mostarda (moh-star-dah). Some people refer to this delightful condiment as fruited mustard. Mostardo is made with a smidgen of essence of mustard, usually from mustard oil, it is beautiful whole fruits bathing in glowing sugar syrup. Cremona, a province of Lombardy, Italy is said to be the birthplace of the finest Mostarda. (It also claims to be the birthplace of ravioli and a number of Italian specialties) 

To my mind's eye, mostardo was "born" in my grandmother's kitchen on Attorney Street in the Lower East Side many many years ago. I'm not sure how my grandmother extracted the oil from the mustard seed or, if she even did. However, I do know mustard oil sometimes irritates the skin. In Italy, it is used in very small amounts. I found step by step instructions for making mostarda at about.com and I have provided the link below. My recollections of mostarda are woven in childhood moments. Chocolate pudding on Sundays, during the Ed Sullivan show or was it Perry Como? Block ice cream cartons my father brought home on payday which I think was Friday or was it Thursday? And, donuts on horse race night, if he won. That, I remember. Otherwise, you see, I feel the memory but I just don't remember:( In my adult life, I have prepared mostarda using dry mustard which is also the way it is prepared by Amy over at Cooking with Amy. She developed her own recipe which was influenced by numerous authors. 

Personally, I prepare mostardo the same way I conger up friendship fruit. Some call it Friendship Cup or "Brandied Fruit." I ferment the fruit with the usual ingredients (yes the brandy too) and add little dabs of dry mustard. I can't give you the exact recipe because I don't cook by recipes, unless I'm baking, which I don't do often. If I get in the mood, I just start concocting. It may not look as pretty as I remember but, for me it works. Fortunately, there are many websites that offer recipes for the "real" thing and I would like to call your attention to a few. The thrill in preparing mostardo lies in the fact that almost any fruit can be used. There's all sorts of combinations only limited by the imagination. The sweetness of the fruit and the pungency of the mustard may seem like an unlikely marriage but believe me, it works divinely. And served with a rich cheese you'll be in heaven! Here, take a look at this recipe for Pear Mostarda. As I mentioned before, mustard oil is not easily found in this country. I happened across a blog post titled On Mostarda, Mustard, and Mustard Oil at the endless banquet blog which seems to clear up some concerns. There's also a recipe for Cranberry Mostarda which sounds quite interesting. 

Mostardo is often served with mascarpone cheese. It also goes quite well with any assortment of rich cheeses. Some serve it with boiled meats or cured sausage meat such as Mortadella. Here's a recipe for Smoky Mortadella Wedges with Fruit Mustard which uses purchased Mostarda di Cremona. It's quick, easy and I'm sure delectable. Many recipes for mostarda refer to it as a fruit mustard. Perhaps, it's easier to remember that way. Anyway, I found a recipe at recipe cottage called Many-Fruited Mustard which resembles my way of preparation. In this instance, it's more of a fruit preserve which the author claims "keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator." I know, grandma wouldn't be happy with me if she knew. But, I was blessed with the real mccoy, now only if I could remember how to make it her way. (write recipes down people so future generations will remember!) On Long Island, where I am now, you can sometimes find a fruit mustard called Plum Mustard Mizzle, which is created up at Paumanok Preserves by Joan Bernstein, a native Long Islander, whose family has farmed here for over 100 years.

Well, it looks like I've plum ran out of time. I hope you've enjoyed your mustard day visit. I should mention the annual National Mustard Day festivities going on at the Mt. Horeb Mustard Museum. Happy Mustard Day & Happy Friendship Day!

FYI: If you’ve ever wondered where the expression to cut the mustard came from, it’s another way of saying to accomplish or to meet expectations. Legend has it that O’Henry coined it in 1907 in Heart of the West where he speaks of "looking around and finding a proposition that exactly cut the mustard."

Resources

  • 1. Marvelous Mustard
  • 2. Mustard Glossary
  • 3. Tangy Mustard Coleslaw (new 2009)
  • 4. Zatarain Interview
  • 5. Creole Mustard Vinaigrette
  • 6. Creole Mustard Recipes
  • 7. ZATARAIN'S® Creole Mustard (just in case you rather not make it:)
  • 8. History of Colman's Mustard
  • 9. How to Make Mostarda

6 comments:

  1. How interesting to see the rich and spicy history of mustard! I have always wondered about all of the variations. Excellent post!

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  2. Great post on one pf my favorite condiments. I have to check out Mostarda. O love the spicier German and Dijon styles myself. And a reallt grainy type.

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  3. Hi Cakespy & Happy Birthday!

    Thanks for visiting and your kind words. Mustard is one of those condiments we just never really give much thought to. It's quite versatile and is so easy to prepare from "scratch."

    And a howdy to you Glamah...You must check out Mostarda. See if you can find it in a speciality store or perhaps, a cheese shop! Thanks for dropping by.

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  4. Louise, what a beautiful post about mustard.
    I share with you the experience of growing up eating Italian mostarda, since I am from an area of Italy where it is made and very appreciated. But in my family it was always bought, never home-made, and I would be curious to try sometime to make my own. I have not eaten it in years now.
    BTW, the reason why it is called 'mostarda' is because it was initially an ancient roman food, prepared with "must" that is grape juice before it has started to ferment to turn into wine.

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  5. Oh Manuela thank you so much for the kind words. I was hoping you would share your experience. How dear to be able to savor those memories.

    Please do make your own and share it with us. I would love to see your blog glowing with Mostarda.

    Thank you so much for adding that dab of history. See ya soon!

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  6. I love mustard (another childhood favorite) and what could be easier than Pickled Mustard Eggs. I will certainly give it try and report back on the results!

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none came to early,
none returned to late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise