Making Mustard with My Sister

peppercorn dijan

Above: Dijon style mustard with black pepper

At its most basic making mustard involves nothing more than mixing ground mustard seeds with water.  Everything I’ve ever read about making mustard desperately wants me to believe that there is nothing to it, that the possibilities are endless, that there’s no trickery or special skills involved.  And that might be true if you aren’t a discerning mustard consumer who wants a very specific style of mustard and if you don’t care if the mustard you end up with burns your mouth to pulp.

macro brown mustardMy sister loves most mustards but I love just one kind.  The mustard I want to be able to make is what’s commercially referred to as “Spicy Brown” which is peculiar since it is definitely not spicy.  I don’t like spicy mustard.  I like my mustard to be tangy.

There is a lot of confusing information out there about mustard making.  For one thing, I read in an issue of Kitchen Gardener that there are three kinds of mustard seeds: yellow, brown, and black.  But other sources have suggested that brown and black are the same.  Then there are recipes that call for white mustard seeds which, it turns out, is another name for yellow mustard seeds.

all the mustardSo many mustard seeds and not a one of them looks exactly the same.

two brownsTo further complicate matters, some brown mustard seeds look nothing alike which makes me wonder how on earth mustard producers make sure they’re getting the same seeds every time.  Are there named cultivars that no one is allowed to reveal to the public?  Is there a giant conspiracy to prevent ordinary people from discovering how to make their own Spicy Brown mustard?  Why is there not one single recipe out there for the one kind of mustard I want to make?

making mustardAnother thing to be confused about when it comes to making mustard.  The heat factor.  If you take mustard powder and mix it with cold water and take a taste you may lose your tongue from the burning heat of it.  Cold water, I’ve read, makes a hotter mustard.  Hot water reduces the heat.  I’ve done it both ways and both ways have resulted in 4 alarm hell-fire spicy mustard.  Most sources say that letting your mustard age for 2-8 weeks at room temperature will mellow it out.  So the longer you let it sit, the milder it becomes.  When it hits the spice level you like you put it in the fridge to stop the mellowing process.

My sister and I followed a recipe in the only mustard making book I’ve been able to find “Gourmet Mustards“* by Helene Sawyer.  We made her basic recipe for Dijon style mustard which she had us cook.  That mustard turned out insanely hot.  I also suspect it didn’t need to be cooked in order to thicken it.  We also made her Dijon style mustard with peppercorns and her Bavarian Style mustard.

dijon mustardDijon style mustard thickening in the pan.  Heat did not, er, kill the heat.  Someone is definitely spreading some questionable mustard intel out there!

bavarian mustardFor the Bavarian Style mustard we were supposed to soak the brown mustard seeds in sherry but since that’s something I never have in my house we used some vermouth.  Which actually smelled pretty good.  Then we were supposed to put the seeds in a food processor and process until the brown seeds were “almost smooth” but “grainy”.  This did not happen as the seeds were much too small for my blades to deal with.  It’s pretty though.

three mustard jarsThe next day we opened the jars and took a whiff.  The Dijon style mustard smells exactly as you expect Dijon to smell but the Bavarian style mustard has a distinctly earthy odor that isn’t my favorite.  Now we wait for several weeks before tasting again.

Meanwhile – I still can’t find any recipes or instructions for making “Spicy Brown” mustard.  I know it has brown mustard seeds (though it could have some yellow too and I suspect, from the tangy aspect, that it is a blend of the two), vinegar, turmeric, and “spices”.  That’s all.  No sugar.

Which reminds me – all of Sawyer’s mustard recipes involve some amount of sugar.  This makes me suspicious that her palate and mine are very different.  I do NOT want sugar in my mustard.  I am not a fan of honey mustard either.  Also – never put candied fruit in a condiment.  Not if you want me to trust you when it comes to – well – anything.

I have a bunch of mustard seeds.  I plan to experiment with mustard until I get it how I want it.  And the next person who tells me that making mustard is the easiest thing in the world had better have a recipe for spicy brown or I’m going to make them eat a whole jar of my freshly made Dijon.

*Maybe the new expanded version is better than the version I have.

5 thoughts on “Making Mustard with My Sister

  1. Angela @ Cottage Magpie

    Oooh, ooh, ooh, I am SO excited you are doing all this research! I had friends who made mustard years ago but they quit and it’s been too long to get the intel on it, but their mustards were really really good. So I have been wanting to take this up for years, but even though my friends had told me it was soooper easy, I did the briefest of Internet searches only to be utterly baffled by the wild miasma of contradictory information I encountered. So I can’t wait to find out what you figure out, especially since spicy brown mustard is my absolute favorite!! ~Angela~

  2. Angela @ Cottage Magpie

    Have you seen this one? or the one that she adapted it from: (I notice it’s called “whole grain” instead of “brown” or “spicy brown”). Oh yes, and why the h-e-double-hockey-sticks do all the Internet recipes for Dijon have egg in them? And one I saw had flour! That doesn’t seem right. ~A

  3. angelina Post author

    I will have to check out those links for sure! Often, when recipes for mustard say “whole grain” they seem to be for mustards with some whole seeds in them, but maybe this is different? Will check it out right now!

  4. angelina Post author

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who’s noticed the contradictory information out there on mustard making! People keep trying to tell me I’m wrong about that. I’m going to check out your links and I also have an idea for spicy brown to try. You know what I’m jealous of? You can still order things from Azure Standard. I MISS being able to do that SO MUCH!!! You can buy mustard powder and mustard seeds (at least yellow) for super inexpensive. Also – the vanilla beans. Also – everything else you can get from them for really reasonable prices. Sigh.

  5. angelina Post author

    Yeah – that ATK post is for mustard with whole seeds in it. It also says mustard will keep for a month in the fridge. That is a LIE. Mustard will keep forever if you don’t add any fresh herbs or fruits to it. A simple mustard will never go bad. The most it will do is oxidize and turn darker where exposed. Mustard seeds and simple mustards literally have an indefinite shelf life both at room temp and in the fridge. I hate it when people write this stuff and aren’t willing to give the real information.

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