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What Is Mustard?
Mustard is a popular condiment made from the seeds of the mustard plant, a member of the genus Brassica and Sinapis. There are three primary types used to make a wide variety of mustards; from mildest to strongest, they are:
- White mustard seeds (Sinapis alba)
- Brown mustard, also known as Indian mustard (Brassica juncea)
- Black mustard (Brassica nigra)
Mustard seeds are sold whole, ground, or bruised. Powdered mustard is often sold as a blend of ground mustard powder, turmeric, and a bit of wheat flour.
Though traces of mustard cultivation have been found in what is now the Indian subcontinent, the Romans are believed to be the first to have used it as a culinary accompaniment. The word mustard is derived from "mustum ardens," a latin term that referred to the combination of ground mustard seeds with must (the juice of unripe grapes) and translates to "burning must."
How Is Mustard Made?
Mustard is made by combining mustard seeds with different liquids and salt to make a paste with a sauce-like consistency. The liquids themselves vary: depending on the type of mustard, they may include:
- Lemon juice
You can thank mustard oil for that sinus-searing punch, the result of an enzyme reaction meant as a protective measure. Adding liquids help to stabilize the oil, but the liquid you use will determine the pungency of the heat: more acid, less heat.
How to Make Homemade Whole Grain Mustard
Making homemade mustard is easier than you might think, and it’s a cool party trick if you’re serving something like pretzels: mix powdered mustard with water or an acid like wine, apple cider or white wine vinegar, or beer to the consistency you’d like and let the whole thing mellow out for 20 minutes. You can even use a food processor and add whole mustard seeds for a grainy mustard texture.
11 Different Types of Mustard and How to Use Each Mustard Variety
Mustards for every mood.
- DIJON. Hailing from Dijon, France, Dijon mustard is your classic sharp mustard and the first variety to ever be regulated. It's made with brown mustard seeds from the spicier end of the scale and white wine.
- GREY-POUPON. As the mustard of choice for all respectable rap artists, Grey Poupon has upheld a reputation for killer mustard since the 19th century. Maurice Grey was a bit of a mustard savant in Dijon, winning medals left and right for innovation (the public demanded it!) and combined forces with Auguste Poupon, another Dijon mustard guy, in 1866. Since then, Grey-Poupon has been the dominant Dijon mustard brand worldwide, synonymous with good taste and now, rappers.
- SPICY BROWN. Like Dijon, but earthier—and yes, spicier—spicy brown mustard relies on partially ground brown mustard seeds, a few warm spices, and scaled back acidity to amp up the direct mustard character and heat. Spicy brown is also known as deli mustard for its ability to bring cold cuts to life.
- YELLOW. The tell-tale squiggle of yellow mustard down the center of hot dogs is as iconic as it comes for American mustard. With a mild heat and bright acidity, yellow mustard is a good candidate for recipes that call for a little lift, like barbecue sauce or marinades.
- FRENCH. Don’t be fooled, but French mustard—a dark brown, mild and tangy variety—was invented by Colman’s in England, not France.
- HONEY. Honey mustard is a one-to-one blend of honey and mustard (typically yellow) that tempers the heat and bitterness of classic yellow mustard with a smooth sweetness, making it infinitely more complex and palatable as a dip or side sauce.
- WHOLE GRAIN. The seeds in whole grain mustard are crushed just enough to form a thick paste, but not so much that the entire seed breaks down. The result is a mustard with a pungent, aromatic heat and crackly texture.
- HOT. Since mustard’s oil-driven heat is calmed by either hot water or acid, or some combination of the two, what happens when you hold off on both and just use cold water is not for the faint of heart. Chinese mustard might be the most well known of the hot mustard family, but English mustard is another familiar contender. Not quite as searing as the Chinese variety, hot English mustard features a balanced blend of both yellow and brown mustard seeds.
- GERMAN. German mustard is a big umbrella term for the far-ranging varieties found all over its rolling hills and bratz-loving enclaves. Bavarian mustards have a sweeter temperament, and in Düsseldorf, they like to turn up the heat. The most common across the country is a medium-hot blend called Mittelscharf.
- BEER. Leave it to the US to infuse a beloved condiment with a beloved beverage: beer! By using beer as the dominant base liquid, the resulting mustard carries more heat. Not only that, the type of beer used—like a rich porter or stout, or herbaceous and bright IPA—can enhance or tweak the flavor profile in interesting ways.
- CREOLE. Creole mustard is a staple of New Orleans cuisine, and makes an appearance on everything from po’boys to remoulade. Its grainy texture and spice is due to a high ratio of mustard seeds to vinegar, and it sometimes includes garlic and celery seed.
3 Mustard-Based Sauce Recipe Ideas
- Salad dressing. To give salad dressing a lively kick, mix a teaspoon or two of Dijon or whole grain mustard with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, and one finely chopped garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper and whisk well to emulsify.
- Glaze. Combine Dijon mustard with brown sugar (1 part mustard to 2 parts sugar) and brush it over roasting meat, like ham or chicken, during the last half hour of cooking.
- Comeback sauce. A relative of remoulade, comeback sauce is a combination of mayo, yellow mustard, ketchup, Sriracha, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and onion powder. It’s hard to go wrong, so personalize the ratios until it’s the right blend of heat, spice, and creaminess for you.
- Mustard port sauce. Try Chef Wolfgang Puck’s mustard port sauce. Watch him demonstrate how here.
Learn more cooking techniques with Chef Wolfgang Puck here.