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The mustards are several plant species in the genus Brassica whose proverbially tiny mustard seeds are used as a spice and, by grinding and mixing them with water, vinegar or other liquids, are turned into a condiment also known as mustard. The seeds are also pressed to make mustard oil, and the edible leaves can be eaten as mustard greens.
Mustard is unrelated to mustard gas, aside from the smell of mustard that gave the gas its name.
Prepared mustard is a thick condiment, a yellow or yellow-brown paste with a sharp taste that is prepared from the ground mustard seeds, by mixing them with water, vinegar or other liquids, and adding ingredients such as flour. A strong mustard can cause the eyes to water, burn the palate and inflame the nasal passages. For this reason, mustard is an acquired taste.
The Romans most likely developed the prepared mustards we know today. They mixed unfermented grape juice, known as "must" with ground seeds (called sinapis) to form mustum ardens, or "burning must".
There are many varieties of mustard, which vary in strength and flavour. Places known for their mustard include Dijon (strong) and Meaux in France, and Norwich in the United Kingdom. There are variations 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.
"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 exist major mustard plants in Dijon and suburbs, most Dijon mustard is manufactured outside of Dijon. Dijon mustard is simply a method of preparing ground mustard seeds, using brown mustard. Nor does "Dijon mustard" have an origin in medieval monasteries: in 1856, Jean Naigeon of Dijon substituted verjuice, the acidic "green" juice of not-quite-ripe grapes, for the older vinegar. Mustards are often prepared with some subsidiary spices like cloves, but in the past adulterants were so commonplace that in 1658 French law proscribed all mustard-making for sale except from certified makers.
Mustard is most often used as a condiment on meat, especially cold meats such as ham; the French like strong Dijon mustard with steak. It is also used as an ingredient in mayonnaise and vinaigrette, in marinades and barbecue sauce.
Popular brands of mustard are Plochman's (since 1852) and French's (Robert Timothy French, 1880) in the United States; Amora and Maille (since 1747) in France; and Colman's (Jeremiah Colman, 1804) in the U.K.
Mustard was not popular in American cooking until mild "mustard sauce" using white (actually yellow) mustard seeds, with some additional turmeric for bright yellow coloring, was made commercially available. "Honey Dijon" appeals in the U.S. to a national taste for sweetness in unexpected sources. In the U.S., very mild prepared mustard is often used as a condiment in combination with ketchup.
In the US, mustard is generally sold in glass jars. Any mustard which is stored for a long period of time is prone to separation, causing mustard water. Shaking a closed jar/bottle prior to opening is recommended.
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