If you’re not into mustards, you’ve missed the memo. The hotdog pairing thing is not the end of the story -- anything a salsa can do, a mustard can do, maybe even better. The only hitch is that fine mustards are expensive. Noelle Carter wrote a homemade mustard piece for her Daily Dish column in the LA Times.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper: Where did you get the idea for making mustard?
Noelle Carter: I’ve written a number of stories for the LA Times and you think you know how to make everything, but mustard was something I never thought to make. Until recently, I just never thought it was something you’d make at home. When I started doing a little research, I realized how embarrassingly easy it is to make. There is nothing like the flavor of homemade mustard.
LRK: Where do you begin to make mustard?
NC: It’s really very simple. All you do is combine mustard seeds with a liquid. That’s a basic mustard. You can start with powdered mustard or whole mustard seeds, which you can get in a grocery store or online. Combine it with a liquid. Basically, the sky’s the limit. Then flavor it however you desire, and voila, you’ve got your own mustard.
LRK: I’ve tried this and had some success. Mustard seeds are famous for being difficult to grind.
NC: They can be. I looked up a bunch of different recipes while I was researching the story, and the easiest way to do it is soak the seeds first and then grind. You can grind them in a food processor and it’s so much easier. If you like the workout, go ahead and grind the dry seeds. But me, I like it a little easier.
LRK: There are different kinds of mustard seeds and each one has a different sort of flavor. Can you walk us through the mustard seed choices and help us work with them?
NC: Definitely. There are three types of mustard seeds that you use to make your own mustard. You’ve got your black mustard seeds, which are the smallest seeds, and they basically contain the most heat, the most pungency. There’s a slightly larger brown seed, which is much easier to find, and the heat is a little bit less pungent. Then you’ve got your white or your yellow mustard seeds; they’re kind of an off-white, yellowish color, and those are typically the mildest of the mustard seeds.
LRK: Those are the ballpark mustard seeds?
NC: That’s correct.
You just stick the seeds in a bowl, cover them with liquid. Usually you use a cold water or a cold vinegar and wait until they’re softened. Then go ahead and grind them up and finish your mustard from there.
LRK: Does it make a difference what kind of liquid you use?
NC: It does. The temperature of the liquid makes a big difference, too. A few different sources said that water tends to produce the most heat. There’s an enzyme that works with the mustard to release the heat, and water seems to be the most complementary environment for that enzyme to get going. You get the best heat, and I found it produces the cleanest mustard flavor with the best pungency. You can also use a vinegar, a wine, or even a beer to hydrate the mustard. Those will all allow the mustard to release its heat, but I found you don’t seem to get as much heat if you hydrate the mustard in a liquid other than water.
LRK: Now you do see mustards that have wine or beer. Can you add some of that later on?
NC: Definitely. Hydrate your seeds, flavor them and grind them. Take a taste of the mustard. It will evolve as the mustard sits, but after you’ve hydrated the mustard and you’ve ground it up, go ahead and add other liquids. Add a little vinegar, add a little beer, sweeten it and spice it to your taste. Then just keep tasting it as the mustard ages, adding a little bit here and there to develop it as it goes.
LRK: Then you can add all kinds of flavorings?
NC: Definitely. The sky’s the limit: brown sugar, maple syrup. I tried a mustard -- it was a honey-based mustard with chopped fresh herbs and it was so nice with turkey after the holidays. But really anything, even chopped fruit. I tried a mustard that I rehydrated in hard cider and then added chopped, fresh apples to. The fresh apples added such a nice sweetness and a crunch factor to the mustard. It was really different and something that you don’t see in the stores when you buy mustard.
LRK: That sounds fabulous. How long will it keep?
NC: It depends. Mustard is known for having antibacterial properties and I’ve read that mustard will keep basically forever. But if you’re going to be adding other ingredients, I would definitely store it in the fridge after it’s ripened and developed. I would probably keep mine no more than 2 to 4 weeks depending on what you add to it.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.