Thursday, February 9, 2017

Cutting the Mustard

This was one of those days when all I wanted to do was sleep. Even after a rare good night’s sleep, I was ready to sleep some more. I shoveled the driveway. Shoveled it again, and REALLY wanted to sleep some more. I felt like I was in a holding pattern just till I could sleep again.

But as I was dropping off some books at the library, I spotted a sign: “Medieval Mustard.” Even the librarian had to look that up. Turns out it was a program that night in mustard-making: “Mustard-making kits will be available. Ready your whomping arm and come make the mustard.” We had to look up “whomping,” too. Could my snow-shoveling arm still whomp?

After dinner, the agony of choice: sleep or try a New Thing? The couch or the road? The Lounge or Col. Mustard? As always, curiosity was the great decider: What’s in a mustard-making kit anyway?

This being Anchorage, fifteen mustard makers would have to include one friend I hadn’t seen in years. Kerri and the others are part of the Society for Creative Anachronism (the Renaissance Fair-type people) so we had a whole lesson in mustard. 13th century households would consume between 160 and 190 gallons of mustard a year!

Our teacher, Nicole, was a master of preparation. We had our histories of mustard, our recipes, our supplies, and our mustard-tasting options. Mustard-making is even easier than sauerkraut-making!

We added wine to our ground mustard seeds, a bit of water, and our choice of herbs. All in a big red cup. Then we whomped.

(Whomping is stirring with a plastic fork.)

Then it sits for 20 minutes. Then you have mustard!

During our 20 minutes, we tasted mustards. Chinese mustard had zing, whole grain mustard had texture, honey mustard was sweet, and the yellow mustard was awful. (Nicole had added jalapeƱos to it to liven it up.) Her recipes include strawberry mustard, molasses mustard, mustard with Worcestershire sauce, mustard with Tabasco and horseradish. Mustard with white wine, mustard with red.

One can go nuts with mustard options!

Our salad dressing used to come in a bottle named Annie’s or Kraft or Wish-Bone. In fact, I just discovered some very old Ranch dressing envelopes in the kitchen cabinet … for when I was getting earthy and “making” our own. A few years back, Sophie taught us to make vinaigrette and add mustard as an emulsifier. Ooh, that was revolutionary; we took to whisking up fresh salad dressing each night.

Ah, but now I’ve discovered the big, wide world of mustard.

Salad may never be the same again. Not hot dogs either.


  1. Barbara. Interested. How does this compare in cost to buying a better-grade mustard off the shelf? After all, it's not only taste that drives my pantry choices, but cost!

    1. It's unclear whether my efforts are creating a "better-grade" mustard, but Nicole's handout said 1 lb. of mustard powder costs about $5 and makes 4 CUPS of mustard.

  2. Maybe mustard parties will become the new thing.

  3. Mustard is fine, but ketchup is the leading cause of stupidity in America. Just ask this professor at Poupon U!

    1. This is hilarious. I actually went to a lecture by another professor on the global history of ketchup:

    2. As a kid, when I went to stay at my cousins' farm and we had burgers (made from their own cows) I used the dread their homemade ketchup made from their own produce. Of course that's the stuff I'd kill for in my third third.

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  5. I am a really big fan of whole grain mustard and have tried many brands of it. I haven't gotten around to making my own mustard yet. But after reading this, I'm going to have to try my hand at mustard making. Wonder if it will be as good as the brands I usually eat?


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