Mustard: Seed, Powder and “Prepared”
Mustard is most commonly used in one of three forms, whole seed, ground and as a liquid condiment called prepared mustard. Powdered mustard is simply finely ground mustard seed, whereas the prepared mustard condiment is typically in vinegar, possibly combined with other ingredients such as salt, wine, horseradish, or God forbid, mayonnaise. Interestingly, mustard stimulates the appetite by increasing salivation by up to eight times; it also has digestive, laxative, antiseptic and circulative stimulant properties.
The two most common types of mustard seeds are yellow and brown (or Asian). White mustard seeds have a light beige or straw colored outer skin. With its milder flavor and good preservative qualities, it is commonly used in the ubiquitous glow-in-the-dark yellow ballpark mustard, as well as in pickling.
Brown mustard seeds are also used for pickling and as a seasoning and are the main ingredient in European and Chinese mustards. Dijon-style mustards in a jar are primarily made using these darker mustard seeds and typically do not use turmeric as a coloring additive in prepared mustard.
You will find mustard powder in all of my BBQ dry rubs, and in most BBQ sauces. Let’s not forget, potato salad is not complete without some sort of mustard, whether powdered or condiment. This includes the delicious warm German style of potato salad that contains one of my favorite ingredients – Bacon; but that’s another discussion for another day.
In the last two decades, flavored mustards have become popular. Mustard blended with honey has become a popular item on the grocers’ shelves. I’m not sure when because it is not rocket science to blend the two ingredients at home with a whisk. I guess some people are so incredibly busy that their schedules do not allow for the two minutes it takes to add the two together. Then there are other people, smarter that I am that targeted these busy people with a pre-blended product, and are now retired, sipping Mai Thais on a beach with lots of time on their hands. It doesn’t seem fair. Uh-Oh, I had better get back to the mustard subject.
Mustard also has a unique physical property used in salad dressings. This interesting property is that mustard helps keep oil and vinegar dressings from separating so quickly. When making an oil and vinegar dressing, you are making an emulsion where tiny vinegar drops are temporarily suspended in the oil when whisked together by creating tiny bubbles of vinegar suspended in the oil. The vinegar helps keep these tiny vinegar bubbles suspended longer, creating a thicker dressing that clings more readily to salad. In this case, the mustard serves as a binder helping to add body to salad dressings and retard the separation of the oil and vinegar. Therefore, mustard is a key element in all of my acid and oil salad dressings.
To make your own dressing, the acid to oil ratio is 1:3 for sweeter acids, such as balsamic vinegar, and up to 1:5 for stronger acids such as lemon and lime. So how do you determine the proper ratio for the acid in hand? Taste! If there is too much “bite,” add more oil; if too bland, add more acid. Remember, when adding more oil, you may have to add more of the seasoning ingredients in your dressing. Taste your way through the process until you have what you like.
When using mustard in cooked recipes, it is important to know that heat causes the pungent flavor of mustard to dissipate and should be added near the end of the cooking process. Also, dried mustard is much stronger than prepared mustard. Try using about 1 teaspoon dried mustard = 1 Tablespoon prepared mustard.
For a quick and easy entrée, try this honey Dijon mustard recipe below. For those busy types, you can use the honey mustard blends commercially available, if you must, however it likely won’t taste as good:
1 salmon fillet, one pound
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
½ teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 450°F. Whisk Dijon mustard, honey, stone ground mustard, pepper and lemon juice together in a wide, shallow non-reactive dish until smooth to make a glaze. Arrange salmon in dish and turn to coat all over with glaze. If the fillet has a tapered tip, fold this under in order to create a uniform thickness for even baking. Otherwise, the tip will be overcooked and dry. Bake salmon, uncovered, for 15—18 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown on top. Transfer to plates and serve.
Until next time, stay well and be kind to each other.
Chef David Hall