Mustard is a specialty grain crop that grows well in cool climates.
It is native to the temperate regions of Europe and was one of the first domesticated crops. It has spread worldwide.
It is used as a pickling spice and as a condiment. Mustard flour is an excellent emulsifier and is added to salad dressing, mayonnaise and processed meats. Some varieties of mustard seed:

  • Yellow (brassica hirta): Gisilba, Kirby, Ochre and Tilney
  • Oriental (Brassica juncea):Domo, Cutless, Forge and Lethbridge 22
  • Brown (Brassica juncea): Blaze and Common Brown

Worldwide production is over 300000 tonnes.
There are six commercial mustard flour mills in the world. Two are in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and the others are in Berlin, Wisconsin; Springfield, Missouri; Hamilton, Ontario; and Norwich, United Kingdom.

Speaking a common language has many advantages but it also has its pitfalls. Whilst the words may be the same, the definition may not. The most innocent expression can dramatically change its meaning simply by dint of crossing an ocean. The risk of assuming that a word used in one culture means the same in another is particularly apparent in the field of cookery. At least when presented with a dish possessing an unfamiliar name, the cautious diner is prompted to inquire of their host what it is they are eating and may thus be protected from the accidental ingestion of molluscs, amphibians, testes, eyeballs or insects.

Not so when the nomenclature is familiar. A prime example of this is the collection of condiments known as mustard. Although superficially all relishes under this appellation are derived from the same plant, the differences are considerable. A particular hazard is the difference between the American and English varieties. On a plate, they look more or less alike, being a bright yellow sauce with a consistency slightly more viscous than that of ketchup. They may even be served in similar vessels, although American mustard is considerably more likely to be contained in a plastic bottle, whereas English tends to be found in a bowl or jar and served with a spoon. American mustard, with its mild, vinegar-like flavour may be cheerfully slathered all over a hot-dog with wild abandon. A guest of Albion however should be cautioned against such usage.

The flavour of traditional English food oscillates between bland and strong, rarely passing through the subtle middle-ground occupied by continental cuisine. With the exception of ubiquitous salt and pepper, condiments tend either to be absent or overwhelming and only rarely complimentary. English mustard typifies this tradition. Properly made, it will annihilate competing flavours with extreme prejudice, filling the mouth with a fiery burning sensation comparable to chilli in its intensity. Attempts to apply it in the quantities appropriate to its American cousin will result in eye-watering pain. A teaspoon-full will provide adequate relish for most meals. It is very cruel and certainly not in the slightest bit funny to serve English mustard to someone who is ignorant of its qualities.

Correct Preparation and Service

Proper English mustard is not bought ready made in a jar. Instead, a tin of powder is acquired and mixed into a paste with water. For reasons of preservation, manufactured mustard frequently uses vinegar instead, which although not unpleasant as a condiment in its own right, is far closer to the American version in flavour, the acidity of the vinegar neutralising some of the spicy heat. Care should be taken when mixing mustard at home, only a very small amount of water is required, a few drops for every teaspoon of powder will be sufficient. This can be hard to judge, but over-saturation will result in a thin liquid similar to gravy in consistency and consequentially difficult to marshal on a plate.

English mustard can be served with virtually any traditional English dish, and is particularly recommended with cold meats such as ham or beef, but in common with its American counterpart, its true partner is the sausage. That is, the traditional British “banger”, ideally cooked to bursting and accompanied by mashed potatoes and gravy. With a high quality Lincolnshire or Cumberland sausage, only a small quantity of mustard need be applied. However if the diner is confronted with a comestible of more dubious pedigree, wisdom may decree a little more be employed, and thus even the most ecologically sound sausage may be rendered edible. In fact, a connoisseur may find themselves deliberately opting for meats from the bottom shelf simply as an excuse for the more liberal application of mustard!

Although the informative and well-written explanation regarding British mustard could stand alone, I feel as a mustard-loving American, I am compelled to add my two cents. In aisle 8 of my local grocery store, there exists a plethora of mustards to choose from besides the stereotypical cheap yellow stuff.

I know because I just shopped three days ago and stood there, amazed at not only the quantity of various types, but the cost per pound. My favorite happens to be inglehoffer ORIGINAL Stone Ground whole seed mustard with No Preservatives, which comes in a 10 oz. (283g) pleasingly round clear container. It is Certified Gluten-Free and Gold Medal Winner in the Napa Valley World Mustard Championships. The mustard is from a family owned company since 1929 and is packed in Oregon, USA.

Ingredients include: water, mustard seed, white distilled vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, garlic, spices, xanthan gum, turmeric, citric acid, artificial and natural flavors, annatto.

The men in my house hate this mustard, but I sneak it into soups and they are none the wiser. I purchase the alleged all-American-slathered-on-hot-dogs variety for sandwiches, as we rarely eat hot dogs, except at family barbeques.

I have used the yellow stuff, mixed with honey, for dipping cooked, breaded chicken. However, if I wanted, I could purchase honey mustard in aisle 8, probably 10 different brands or more. There is also light brown mustard, mustard with wasabi, mustard with horseradish, mustard with Jack Daniel's, you get the mustard idea.

There are few things more pitiful in this world than the fall of mustard into its current vapid form. Mustard seeds were but a simple spice until around 2000 years ago, when the Romans brought civilization to the world -- including mustard. As the name clearly states, the Romans didn't actually see the mustard seed (in Latin, sinapis) as central to the dish. They called it mustum, a word used as both a shortening of mustum uinum, or 'new wine', and mustum ardens, or 'burning must'.

Of course, simply adding mustard seed to unfermented crushed grapes would be somewhat underwhelming. The Roman cookbook Apicius suggested using mustum ardens as a glaze for whole roasted boar, and called for a heady mixture including ground mustard seed, black pepper, caraway, lovage, roasted coriander seeds, dill, celery, thyme, oregano, onion, honey, vinegar, fish sauce, and oil. This fell somewhat short of other recipes that included pine nuts and almonds, which would give the resulting condiment even more body.

Apicius does not give the details on preparation, but if prepared the same day and used as a marinade over a hot spit, it is likely that the heat mellowed out the mustard considerably, and the lack of a sitting period may have resulted in a bitter taste. However, the Romans certainly were aware of the range of mustard's bite, as when Titus Maccius Plautus referred to 'roguish mustard', the overuse of which would liken food to being seasoned with vampire owls. No, I don't know what that means either. However, the word mustum certainly referred to much more than the seed, or a simple paste resulting therefrom.

Although there are a number of recipes for 'Roman Mustard' floating around, I would recommend starting with the fairly simple and representative recipe given by The Splendid Table, which involves soaking the mustard seeds and mixing them with vinegar and grape juice, and allowing the slurry to ripen for around two days. The mixture is completed with cumin, pine nuts and almonds, giving a more hearty result than you are likely to find in modern supermarkets, although perhaps less suitable for marinating roast boar than a centurion would prefer.

Bonus mustard word!
Mustardarius: the monk in charge of planting, harvesting, and preparing mustard.

Mus"tard (?), n. [OF. moustarde, F. moutarde, fr. L. mustum must, -- mustard was prepared for use by being mixed with must. See Must, n.]

1. Bot.

The name of several cruciferous plants of the genus Brassica (formerly Sinapis), as white mustard (B. alba), black mustard (B. Nigra), wild mustard or charlock (B. Sinapistrum).

⇒ There are also many herbs of the same family which are called mustard, and have more or less of the flavor of the true mustard; as, bowyer's mustard (Lepidium ruderale); hedge mustard (Sisymbrium officinale); Mithridate mustard (Thlaspi arvense); tower mustard (Arabis perfoliata); treacle mustard (Erysimum cheiranthoides).


A powder or a paste made from the seeds of black or white mustard, used as a condiment and a rubefacient. Taken internally it is stimulant and diuretic, and in large doses is emetic.

Mustard oil Chem., a substance obtained from mustard, as a transparent, volatile and intensely pungent oil. The name is also extended to a number of analogous compounds produced either naturally or artificially.


© Webster 1913.

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