Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Recipe: Homemade Porter Mustard with Thyme and Onion

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. – Truman Capote

The finished mustard. Flavoured with beer, thyme and onion.
UPDATE, December 26: I gave this mustard as Christmas gifts. Since I made it the mustard darkened somewhat as I had hoped. The beer and thyme flavours melded together as well. We had this mustard with my homemade cognac mustard recipe (google search "docaitta cognac mustard") on baked ham. Delicious!

You know it's kind of funny. This is the second whole grain mustard I've made and I'm hard pressed to tell the difference visually between this recipe and the cognac mustard from a few days ago. But their taste can't be further apart. Don't let the nearly identical images fool you. This one's a little darker because of the Porter ale.

The thing about mustard is that it can vary wildly by what extra ingredients you include in the recipe. This one has beer, thyme and onion. It's a great combination.

What is mustard?
Flowers of Brassica nigra. Photo: satshot2010, Flickr ccl
Mustard is a member of the Brassica family. Brassica includes cabbages, turnips, cauliflowers, broccoli, and of course mustards. We harvest the leaves of some mustards (mustard greens) and the seeds of other varieties. Brassica are a very diverse and important family of plants. 

Mustard seeds come in three colours and are harvested from three three brassica varieties: yellow/white (B. hirta/Sinapis alba), brown (B. juncea) and black (B. nigra). The darker the seed, the stronger the heat. 

Mustard seeds apparently germinate quite easily and like cold air and moist soil. They grow well in temperate areas. Some of the largest mustard seed producers are Canada (at 90%), Hungary, the UK, India, Pakistan and the United States. I'm assuming each country has a specialty seed. (Black mustard seeds are common in Indian and Pakistani cuisine.)

Mustard making basics
Photo: Wiki CC
The word mustard comes from the Latin "mustum ardens", that translates into "burning must." It was the practice of the Romans to grind the seeds with must (unfermented juice of wine grapes) to serve as a condiment, almost identically to what we do today. The words were shortened to "must ard" and finally mustard.

Wine is used extensively in French style mustards, the most common being Dijon. But you can mix pretty much anything in with your mustard as long as there's some acid in it. That is why vinegar is almost always included in the ingredients list. Other options are water, wine, beer or a combination. If using mustard seed rather than powder, the seeds must be rehydrated in some sort of liquid before grinding into mustard paste.

That brings us to Fuller's London Porter ale – rich, dark and complex. Porter is a dark style of beer. In fact it is extremely close to Stout, the most well known of those being Guiness. The name originated in the 18th century from its popularity with the street and river porters of London.It apparently had a higher alcohol content than now as well. Currently it is brewed to 5.4% alc./ vol.

Following are a few sections from Wiki about mustard that I think are interesting.

Why is mustard hot?
From Wikipedia: Mustard often has a sharp, pungent flavor, as mixing the ground seed with cold liquid allows the enzyme myrosinase which it contains to act on glucosinolates also present to make isothiocyanates, responsible for mustard's characteristic heat.

Mustard, in its powdered form, lacks any potency and needs to be fixed; it is the production of allyl isothiocyanate from the reaction of myrosinase and sinigrin during soaking that causes gustatory heat to emerge.

Storage and shelf life
From Wikipedia: Because of its antibacterial properties, mustard does not require refrigeration; it will not grow mold, mildew or harmful bacteria. Unrefrigerated mustard will lose pungency more quickly, and should be stored in a tightly sealed, sterilized container in a cool, dark place. Mustard can last indefinitely, though it may dry out, lose flavor, or brown from oxidation. Mixing in a small amount of wine or vinegar will often revitalize dried out mustard. Some types of prepared mustard stored for a long time may separate, causing mustard water, which can be corrected by stirring or shaking. If stored for a long time, unrefrigerated mustard can acquire a bitter taste.

So without further ado, let's make beer mustard!

Porter Mustard with Thyme and Onion
Makes about 2-3/4 cups
This recipe made nearly 3 cups of gourmet mustard.
Cost: $4.00 beer, 50¢ for seeds and powder, pennies for
vinegar, onion, thyme and water.
About $12 worth of mustard for under $5.00!
1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/4 cup brown mustard seeds
1 cup Porter ale
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 tbsp mustard flour
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water (if needed)
1 tsp salt

Soak the mustard seeds, onion powder and thyme in the beer for 24 hours. 

Place the mustard mixture in a blender with the mustard flour, vinegar and salt. Pulse until the mixture is the consistency of a paste, with some seeds remaining visible. You can control how "grainy" your mustard is by the amount of blending you do. If you want it smoother add the optional water.

Place the mustard in sterile, sealable glass containers. Cover and let sit on the counter for 2-3 days before refrigerating. This sitting develops the flavor and bite of the mustard. It also allows the flavours to meld. 

Refrigeration stops/slows the process but also extends the shelf life, of course...


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