I’ve talked about how learning to bake your own bread and make your own yogurt and granola are probably the gateway recipes when striving towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle. I think making your own mustard should be added to that list. It’s super easy, it’s almost impossible to mess it up, it doesn’t cost much (I recently bought about 2/3 cup of bulk whole yellow mustard seed for $2.25 – enough for 12 oz of finished mustard), there are about a million variations, and it can be really really tasty.
Truth be told, I wasn’t a mustard kid growing up. About the only thing I put mustard on was a corn dog (and I still think mustard on a hamburger is just WRONG). I’m not a big fan of horseradish or wasabi even now. So it took me a number of years to really embrace mustard as a condiment. I’ve never really liked hot dogs, but I do love a good bratwurst slathered in a course mustard. Sometime after 1990, when I moved to the front range of Colorado, I discovered Mady’s Old Tyme Beer Mustard. There is nothing better on a brat, and when I moved away from Colorado for a number of years and could not find this mustard locally, I used to bring it home in my suitcase when I went for a visit.
I moved back to Colorado in 2000, back to my beloved Mady’s, and so I never gave making my own mustard a second thought. But then we moved away again in 2010, about the time food blogs were really taking off. Within the space of a few months, Sunset Magazine, Mother Earth News and several blogs I followed all had run pieces on making your own mustard. I was down to my last bottle of Mady’s. And it finally dawned on me. Why wasn’t I doing this? As Hank Shaw from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook wanted to say when someone at a blogging convention asked him, …do you mean you can make mustard at home? “Well no shit, Sherlock! How did you think it was made? By mustard elves under a tree?”
So I compared and compiled a stack of recipes (which is what I always do when I try something new – what can I say, I like to be prepared). Alton Brown, who I love, had a mustard recipe as well. What do they all have in common? Mustard, ground or whole, water or some other liquid (wine, beer), vinegar, salt, and usually a bit of sweetness. Other spices (turmeric and garlic are really common) and herbs (thyme, rosemary etc.) can be added or left out as you see fit.
Honestly, the Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook blog post on this is super interesting and thorough, so I won’t repeat his wonderful piece here (go read it – seriously, the link is above) except for a few of his key points, which no one else ever seems to mention.
- Brown mustard seeds (Brassica juncea) are more spicy than yellow mustard seeds (Sinapis alba).
- What gives mustard its kick is when the seeds are broken open and COLD liquid is added. If you like your mustard to bite you back, use mustard powder, or thoroughly grind your own seeds, then add cold water. Want it more mild? Don’t grind it up as much and/or add warm liquid instead. We did a taste test with just a teaspoon of mustard powder blended with a teaspoon of cold or hot water. And its true. You really can taste the difference.
- What sets the heat level and keeps your mustard from degrading over time is the addition of vinegar. You can make a quick Chinese hot mustard like they serve in restaurants by just mixing mustard powder and water, but it won’t have much kick to it the next day.
Mustard is naturally antibacterial (which is why it’s also an old-time remedy for lots of ailments). Add vinegar and salt, and it will last pretty much forever in your refrigerator. Ever seen a long forgotten container of mustard in the back of the fridge with mold on it? I haven’t. Home mixed mustard is good in the refrigerator for at least 6 months, assuming it started out in a clean container.
Mustard is actually also very easy to grow. You don’t even have to order seeds. That seed you bought in the bulk spice aisle to make your own mustard? You can throw it out in the yard and it will grow. I tested this out last year, when I grew both store-bought brown and yellow mustard, along with some seed I mail ordered. I had great intentions of harvesting that mustard seed too, but, well, it was ready to harvest in August. August sucks. It’s hot. I have a million things to do. I never got to it. Which means I’m going to have one heck of a crop this coming spring, of both yellow (sometimes called white) and brown mustard. Note that growing culinary mustard and tilling it into the soil has become the new darling of cover crops, as it has all kinds of beneficial effects on the soil, including disease control.
So, without further ado, here is the recipe for a course beer mustard that I made today. It’s not Mady’s, but its pretty darned good.
Coarse Ground Beer Mustard
Makes about 12 oz
- 1/3 cup yellow mustard seeds, lightly cracked in a coffee grinder/spice mill
- 1/3 cup brown mustard seeds, lightly cracked in a coffee grinder/spice mill
- 1/2 cup beer of choice (we used a pale ale that we weren’t likely to drink, but a nice stout would be lovely here too)
- 1/4 cup vinegar of choice (apple cider is pretty standard – I used a homemade pear cider vinegar, but that’s another post)
- 2 tsp table or sea salt
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- After tasting and deciding it needed a bit more sweetness (which probably wouldn’t have been true if we’d used a stout) we added about a tablespoon of amber malted barley syrup (since it was a beer mustard, and we’ve recently been brewing and happened to have it in the fridge).
After cracking your mustard seeds, add beer (room temperature or cold, your choice – depending on the heat level you want), stir, and let sit for about 20 minutes for everything to hydrate. After that, stir in the vinegar, salt, honey and spices. Taste and correct for sour, salty, or sweet by adding a bit more vinegar, salt or sweetener of choice (honey, agave nectar, molasses, maple syrup, sugar, brown sugar…many many choices here). You want a thick coarse mustard that is still spoonable. Place in a clean jar and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours for the flavors to meld and the final viscosity to set. You can always add a bit more vinegar or beer if it’s too thick, or bring to a low simmer and cook slightly of its too runny. That’s it. You’re done. Enjoy.
I also made this Dijon mustard the same day. It’s a little more fussy, but I happened to have one shallot left from this summer, and a juniper tree just outside full of seeds (note, the darker juniper seeds are more mature and have a sweeter flavor to them – should you be picking your own). I tend to use Dijon in cooking, so this 12 oz or so of finished mustard will likely last me more than a year.
Note: a lot of mustard recipes you’ll find online contain egg, and require cooking, but not overcooking or you’ll curdle the egg. I’ve no idea what this is about. Mustard is a natural emulsifier. It’s part of why it’s always included in classic vinaigrette recipes. It helps the oil and water stay blended, at least for a little while. Adding egg (also an emulsifier), and then cooking but not overcooking, just seems fussy to me, as mustard is plenty thick enough on its own, so I’ve never bothered with the egg recipes. (Plus it seems like it wouldn’t keep as long). If you do try any of them, let me know how they compare.
You’ll also see recipes that call for soaking the whole mustard seeds in a liquid for a couple of days before proceeding. Again, not quite sure what this achieves. I’ve tried it this way. It’s much harder to break up the seeds when they are in liquid, and I didn’t notice any special difference, so now I don’t presoak. Feel free to try it both ways and report back.
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2015, where we’ll never be one of those people who has “wasabi” contests to see who can take the biggest bite, but we do very much appreciate a well crafted mustard.