Mustard

Mustard

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From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

The condiment based on the ground powder of the seeds of the mustard plant. There are three types of mustard seed which may be ground to make mustard – white (Sinapis alba), brown (Brassica juncea) and black (Brassica nigra). Manufactured mustard powder is usually a mixture of one or more varieties of mustard seed.

The pungency of mustard is due to an essential oil, which is not present in the living seed or in dry, ground powder but forms when the crushed dried seed is mixed with water. An enzyme then causes a glucoside (a bitter substance chemically related to sugar) to react with the water and the hot taste of mustard emerges. Mixing with boiling water, as some advocate, kills the enzyme and produces a milder but bitter mustard. Vinegar should also not be used to mix mustard, for salt and vinegar both inhibit the development of the enzyme – unless, of course, one prefers a milder but bitter mustard.

Mustard powder should be mixed with cold water and allowed to stand for 10–15 minutes, in which time the essential oils will develop. Once the essential oils have developed, they will not be readily degraded by vinegar or salt or even by heat. To preserve mustard’s pungency in cooked dishes, however, add towards the end of cooking and cook gently.

Main types of mustard:

English mustard: In England mustard is sold in powdered form: it is made from blended seeds of the black mustard seed and yellow-white alba, finely ground, and it is a hot yellow in colour. The powder is mixed with water, at home, and is the pungent but perfect partner for the roast beef of England. It is the proper mustard to use with cheese – the toasted cheddar cheese that Ben Gunn dreamt of in Treasure Island would certainly have had a dash of good English mustard. Welsh rarebits, cheese sauce and cheese soufflés reach their peaks with just the right amount of English mustard. Mixed English mustard is the perfect condiment with ham, roast pork or pork pie, and beef or pork sausages.

When used in dishes that call for mustard, even English mustard loses much of its pungency if overcooked. In mayonnaise and salad dressing, mustard helps to stabilise the emulsions as well as adding a bite. Mustard is also used in pickles.

Fresh mustard powder should be mixed every time it is needed. Put a few tablespoons of mustard powder in a small dish, add water a teaspoon at a time and mix to a smooth paste. Allow to stand for 10–15 minutes to develop the flavours. To make a milder mustard, with a biting after-taste, mix the mustard with wine vinegar or cider.

Stale mixed mustard loses much of its essential oils and therefore its pungency. However, as a powder, in its small container (Coleman’s, the oldest traditional English mustard makers, have designed an excellent container), mustard will retain its powers, provided it does not get damp. An English prepared mustard is also available.

French mustard: Although most of the mustard that is consumed in England is dry, the French, and indeed most of Europe, generally prefer a mixed prepared mustard. Transportation and travel are changing national preferences as more of the world is introduced to the excellent mixed prepared mustards of France and in particular the mustards of Dijon, in Burgundy.

The two types of mustard used in France are the pale Dijon and the darker Bordeaux mustards. Dijon mustards have a particularly clean taste – sharp and salty, not sweet, and with a strong hot taste of mustard.

Dijon mustard is exceptionally good with steak and anything else in which the taste of the dish should not be masked. Dijon mustard is the one used in French sauces – French cooks prefer it in mayonnaise and vinaigrette and for the delicate creamy sauces that go with kidneys, eggs, chicken or fish. Pan gravies are often enhanced with Dijon mustard and cream.

The best known brands of Dijon mustard include Grey-Poupon, who make dozens of different blends and ship them all over the world, as do Maille and Amora. There is, of course, the grained French mustard called moutarde de Meaux, an interesting mixture of ground and half-ground seeds, with a grainy texture.

Among the additives to French mustards are tarragon, and a mixture of French herbs; green peppercorns, called moutarde au poivres verts; and tomato purée is added to make a mustard that goes well with hamburgers. None, though, really beats the original Dijon mustard of France.

Bordeaux mustard is darker than Dijon because it contains the seed coat. It is sour-sweet with vinegar and sugar, and is heavily flavoured with tarragon and other herbs and spices.

All mixed mustards should be stored, covered, in a cool place. Once opened, they slowly lose their flavour. It is better to buy in small quantities and replace as necessary.

German mustard: It is of the general type of Bordeaux mustard – dark in colour, sweet-sour and flavoured with herbs and spices. It goes well with German sausage, particularly of the frankfurt kind, like knackwurst, the Dutch rookwurst, and Polish kielbasa, etc.

Other mustards: Manufacturers throughout the world prepare mixed mustards for their local markets. In the US, a mustard is made from the alba seeds and flavoured with sugar, vinegar or white wine. It is the one you get when you order a hot dog or hamburger in the US. Manufacturers emulate the famous mustards of France and Germany, but few match up to the genuine article.

Other forms of mustard:

Mustard seeds: Spice shops, Asian or Chinese groceries and health food shops sell mustard seeds. These find their way into pickles and curries, while some are used for home-made mustards. Again, these home-made mustards never match those from France and Germany.

Mustard greens: Trays of mustard and cress are sold, already sprouted, although these may contain only small cress. These days, canola is sometimes substituted. Snip the tops off and use when making sandwiches, add to egg or chicken dishes and use as a garnish over salads. You can also buy the seeds and sprout your own mustard and cress (see Cress).

Mustard oil: This is obtained by pressing the seeds of field mustard, canola and other mustards, and is used to great advantage in Indian cooking, particularly that of Bengal, north India and Pakistan. It has a very distinctive flavour and smell, but is not all that pungent when used in cooking as the essential mustard oil is readily driven off by heat. Mustard oil can be bought in most shops specialising in Indian products.

Ingredients

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