Mustard can be described as pungent, earthy and sharp!

One of the oldest condiments, it is  very popular and a widely used spice around the globe and is known as “the spice of nations.”  It is also the only spice commonly grown in the UK.   It is so widely admired, that it even has its own festival in California’s Napa Valley and a museum dedicated to it in Norwich!

This hot, spicy, pungent condiment is a firm favourite that adds some kick to meat and is delicious in a beef or ham sandwich, added to sausages, burgers, in salad dressings or on a piece of pork pie.

We all have our favourite variety, from a smooth creamy mustard made from mustard flour, to a whole grain or coarse mustard made from un-milled, or partially ground, mustard seeds.

Low in calories, mustard is unusual as it is cultivated in cold climates and is largely grown in Canada, England and Hungary.

What is Mustard?

Mustard is a condiment made from the pungent seeds of one plant in the Brassicacea family which also includes horseradish and radish. The latin name for Brown Mustard is Brassica Juncea , for Black Mustard Brassica Nigra and White Mustard is Brassica Alba.

There are over 40 species of mustard plant. There are three types of mustard seed which when combined with liquid become mustard:

  1. White mustard seeds
  2. Brown mustard seeds
  3. Black mustard seeds

The crop is harvested in early autumn and the mustard seed is dried, ground into a powder as seeds, or prepared as a paste where mustard seeds are combined with a liquid such as vinegar, wine, beer or lemon juice and salt to make the mustard condiment we love!

There are many different types of mustard around the world including, Dijon Mustard, English Mustard, Whole Grain Mustard, French Mustard, to the popular American Ballpark Mustard classily added to hotdogs.

The Origins of Mustard

 Mustard seeds have been found in pre-historic sites from China to Europe. Archaeological remains in Egypt showed that the Egyptian pharaohs added mustard seeds into their tombs, thought to perhaps to accompany them to their afterlife.

The first records of the use of mustard as a condiment date back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who chewed the seed whole, pulverized and sprinkled them over food, or steeped them in a liquid – normally wine or vinegar. Also used as a medicine,  as it was seen as a miracle remedy for treating chest colds and for curing stings, aches and pains. As a spice it was first recorded in Indian and Sumerian Texts in 3000 BCE, and seen as a symbol of faith in the New Testament.

From Rome the seed spread all over Europe and in France in the 9th Century monks started cultivating it. The name mustard is thought to come from the Latin mustum, the name for young wine used to mix ground seeds to paste.

In the 13th century in Dijon, France, Pope John XXII of Avignon- who quite liked a bit of mustard – created a job for his lazy nephew who became the Grand Mustard Maker & the condiment we know today was first produced!

Mustard was written into King Richard’s cook book ‘The Forme of Cury ‘as a condiment (England in 1390). Here we find mustard seeds combined with flour and cinnamon, shaped into balls where they would be left stored to dry before being combined with liquid to make a mustard paste.

Where is mustard famous?

Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire, became famous for its mustard balls that were combined with horseradish – a common weed in the area – before being transported around the county. Even Falstaff mentions mustard in Shakespeare’s Henry 1V Part 2!

Tewkesbury’s remarkable mustard was prosperous from the 15th century but by the 19th century the manufacturing stopped & Mr Coleman, of Norwich, establishing mustard as an industrial food ingredient and becoming the first mustard millers in the world. However, in 2013 an artisan producer called ‘the Genuine Tewkesbury Mustard Company’ established ‘to keep the ball rolling’ and sell a range of mustards and mustard balls, even one encased in gold! Visit http://www.tewkesburymustard.co.uk.

Norfolk has played an important part in the revival of mustard and has saved mustard production in the UK which became threatened due to poor harvests and bad weather.

In 2007 there was a lack of plant breeding so scientists brought the spice back from the brink of collapse, thanks to a jar of mustard seeds stored at the back of Colman’s. They used this to establish what was causing a drop in yields, also discovering the flavour had changed in some of Colman’s mustard during this process. At this point the English mustard Growers co-operative was formed to develop the crop in the East of England where it is predominantly grown.

How is Mustard used in cooking?

As a store cupboard essential this condiment can add some kick to a salad dressing, make a delicious glaze for roast meats such as pork, lamb or turkey breast. It can be added to pasta for a creamy sauce or be mashed into potatoes.

A common ingredient in Indian cooking black mustard seeds are fried and added to stir frys, lentil or rice dishes for spice and texture. A classic combination in Bengali dishes in the eastern region of India, mustard is used for coconut curries, added to fish, yogurt and rice dishes.

Try frying mustard seeds in oil until they pop and unleash their full flavour and add fennel, cumin and coriander seeds for some intensifying flavours.

White mustard seeds are perfect for making pickling brines for tangy pickled onions or toasted and added to dishes or in a salad dressing.

For a healthy recipe try our Fennel and Garlic Meatballs with a mustard gravy – recipe card available when you sign up to our monthly e-bulletin.

Top Tip

  • Mustard seeds can become bitter when overworked. If you grind them quickly in a spice grinder they should be fine.

 

 

Quick Mustard Fix

For those quick after work mid-week recipes, buy Jeyels South Indian Fish curry sauce with its tangy aromatic flavours of coriander, mustard seeds, juicy tomatoes and cream coconut for a mouth watering sauce perfect when added to fish.

 

 

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