Making great mustard is nothing short of alchemy. Mysterious, baffling, maybe even a bit magical. My first attempts were awful. They were bitter, nasty things no one in their right mind would eat. But I did, doggedly and miserably, hoping to figure out what I was doing wrong. Most recipes, even those from reputable sites, were short on clues and long on reader complaints of unpalatable mustards.
I had to dig deeper than a list of ingredients and a simple method to finally make one worth eating. Over the course of the summer I’ll post a few recipes, each illustrating a different aspect, or principle of making delicious mustard. Today’s lesson is time.
Patience always rewards, and in the case of mustard, especially true. Mustard seeds, wether whole or ground, must be soaked in liquid to bring them to life. During this initial hydrating phase, a chemical reaction takes place that awakens the seed’s pungency and heat along with a bracing bitterness. Left alone to mature, this bitterness eventually gives way to more agreeable flavours.
Making a batch of pickled mustard seeds, or whole grain mustard, is perhaps the easiest way to illustrate this principle. Luckily, it’s also one of the most rewarding, in part because it’s such a breeze but especially because left whole, pickled mustard seeds offer textural contrast to squishy burger and hot dog buns. They look a bit like confetti too making them perfectly suited to less serious sorts of summery eating.
This one is for everyone who’s ever pleaded with the author of a mustard recipe for a solution to their acrid, bitter jar of homemade mustard. You should taste it along the way, say every few days or so, and monitor its progress from awful to to awesome. Before you begin, you’ll need to finish the jar of pickles in your fridge.
- 1 cup (250 mL) strained pickle brine
- ⅔ cup (160 mL) white pickling vinegar
- ¾ tsp (3 mL) salt, plus extra as needed
- ½ cup (125 mL) yellow mustard seeds
- ¼ cup (60 mL) brown mustard seeds
- Bring pickle brine to a boil on the stovetop in a small pot and reduce to ½ cup (125 mL); cool to room temperature. Add pickling vinegar and salt; stir to dissolve.
- Place yellow and brown mustard seeds in a 2 cup capacity glass jar or bowl and pour pickle brine mixture over; stir to combine, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours before tasting a few seeds (mustard will be quite bitter) and adding more salt only if necessary. Cover and return to fridge for at least two weeks, and as long as 1 month before using. Use within 6 months.
- hot dogs
- alongside cold cuts
- on crusty ham and cheese sandwiches
- serve along canned sardines & crackers