Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Homemade Mustard Stocking Stuffers

I love making condiments, but have always been resistant for some reason to trying my hand with mustard. I grew up with the bright yellow stuff of French's. Not that it did anything for me, but it was the mustard du jour of the 60s. And, of course, there was the classic spicy deli mustard, Ba-Tampte, which was perfect for salami sandwiches, Hebrew National hotdogs and knockwurst, and corned beef and pastrami. Then in the late 80s, there were the inimitable commercials for Grey Poupon. You know, the ones with the two hoity-toity men in their Rolls Royces ever so politely exchanging those rounded glass jars. Mustard became aspirational. Became lifestyle. And within a decade or so emerged new artisinal trends, and soon we had all sorts of flavored mustards--made with raspberry and chilis and honey and garlic--and whatever anyone could think of.

Enter my friends at SoNo Trading Company--Zach Negin and James Magnatta--who launched their company a few years ago, initially selling their luscious flavor-packed mustards at several farmers markets. Now they've eschewed the farmers markets for distribution at places like Whole Foods, Dean & Deluca, Venissimo, and others, narrowing their flavors to three favorites: Whole Grain, Champagne Garlic, and Hong Kong Habanero. They're fabulous. And, the guys are also great teachers. Recently, Zach, who now lives in L.A. and teaches at the Institute of Domestic Technology, spent an evening with my Les Dames d'Escoffier chapter at The Wild Thyme Company, teaching us the secrets and techniques to making both mustard and lacto-fermented ketchup. The class was a blast and turned all of us into mustard- and ketchup-making fiends. Including me.

Around the large grouping of tables were bottles, jars, and containers of all sorts of potential flavorings--molasses, kona coffee, pomegranate syrup, citrus zest, nutmeg, allspice, and even grapefruit bitters. We learned from Zach that Canada is the biggest exporter of mustard seeds and that the easy little secret to Chinese mustard is blending ground mustard (like Coleman's) with a little water. Water brings out the heat, says Zach.

We toyed around with both yellow and brown seeds before getting started with some that Zach already pre-soaked.

The process itself is quite simple--but you can easily get into trouble. You have a proportion of liquid to solids--1 1/2 cups mustard seeds to 20 ounces of liquid. That's not the issue. It's all those flavor choices. Do horseradish and citrus zest really work well together? Maybe. Maybe not. Did we have too heavy a hand with the nutmeg? Did we get carried away and use too many flavorings and muddy the results? In other words, sure, be daring, but be also be respectful of the power of the flavors and combinations you choose. You could have a real winner or something your gift recipients will spit out.

Flor Franco and Maria Gomez mixing up their mustard flavors
So, back to the process. Essentially, you'll measure out your basics--mustard seeds and liquid--along with salt, and other flavorings. They'll soak in a nonreactive mixing bowl at room temperature for a few days to soften the seeds and meld the flavors. Then you grind it all together, transfer to a jar and cover. That's it. You'll want to keep open jars refrigerated.

Marie Kelley with her just-ground mustard.

And my selected flavorings? I went with honey, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, Kona coffee, and chipotle powder. Delicious!

Below is Zach's recipe. He's got a lovely flavor profile here with what I'd call baking ingredients. Use those or sub out your own. And, the beer is a great addition, but you can just as readily use water, wine, or fruit juice if you like.

Zach Negin's Homemade Mustard
(printable recipe)
Makes 2, 6-ounce jars

12 ounce bottle of Guinness Extra Stout (or wine, juice, water...)
1 1/2 cups mustard seeds (10 ounces), brown or yellow
1 cup red wine vinegar (or sherry, infused vinegar, apple cider vinegar -- not distilled)
2 1/2 ounces brewed espresso or 8 grams finely ground espresso beans
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1. Combine ingredients in a nonreactive mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for two to four days so that the mustard seeds soften and the flavors meld.
2. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor and process. Or grind by hand with a mortar and pestle. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula until the seeds are coarsely ground and the mixture thickens, about three minutes. Transfer to a jar and cover.
3. Refrigerate overnight and use immediately or refrigerate for up to six months. (The flavor of the mustard will mellow as the condiment ages.)

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  1. Was there any discussion of lacto-fermented mustard and other condiments, the traditional method of pickling that relies on probiotic bacterial cultures to preserve and enhance food? The relatively modern "quick" vinegar preservation methods are quick interesting, of course, and no doubt are very practical for relatively brief class sessions, but I'm having a hard time finding information about how to make the pre-industrial versions of mustard preparations that people have made and consumed for eons.

    1. No, there wasn't, but there's a guy in San Diego who has a business called Happy Pantry and all his pickles and krauts are done in the traditional, pre-vinegar method. You can find him at a variety of local farmers markets, including the Little Italy Mercato. You can also ask Zach Negin about this. He's on Facebook. Thanks for writing!