Monday, November 28, 2011

Recipe: Rustic Cognac Mustard

Americans can eat garbage, provided you sprinkle it liberally with ketchup, mustard, chili sauce, Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, or any other condiment which destroys the original flavor of the dish. – Henry Miller

Piquant and velvety, with hints of cognac.
UPDATE, December 26: I gave this mustard as Christmas gifts. In the month since it was made it mellowed beautifully. It is a wonderful mustard, reminiscent of Dijon in a way, but "sweet" from the cognac. It was fantastic on baked ham.

Have you ever made your own mustard? If you haven't you should really try. It’s easy and rewarding. There’s two ways to make mustard and only two ways. One is with mustard powder (or “flour”); the other is with seeds. Everything else is just bells and whistles.

Yellow and brown mustard seeds.
Photo: Mouser NerdBot, Flickr ccl
Sounds simple, right? Well, making mustard IS simple, and the results you can achieve are amazing. 

Here’s the formula. (Liquid + mustard seeds or powder) x a blender = prepared mustard. The devil’s in the details, so they say. It’s what you add to the mixture that gives every mustard its unique flavour.

The most basic formulation would be to combine mustard powder and water in a 1:1 ratio and then mix it into a paste. I would hazard a guess it would be pretty sharp, but mustard it would be. Make no mistake, mustard seed is hot and prepared mustard should be hot. If not you’re doing something wrong. 

Two condiments that benefit from being made at home. These
are not. Photo wintersoul1, Flickr ccl
Yellow hot dog mustard is sort of mustard, but not really in my book. It has its uses (ballpark franks, some sandwiches…), but homemade mustards are an entirely different beast. They can be the star of a dish, not an afterthought. And that lurid yellow colour? No mustard seed was ever grown that was that colour. Where do you think it comes from? Turmeric, or at least it used to...

Enough about yellow mustard. But sadly it’s usually the only mustard most people are familiar with. That has to change. Let’s talk about how to make good mustard.

As a rule, if you want a more “rustic” style of mustard start with whole seed. You’ll never get them all ground up in the final preparation. That’s what makes it rustic.

If you’re looking for a very smooth mustard use mustard powder. If you have a food mill (or mortar and pestle, or spice grinder) it is possible to grind your own seeds to make mustard powder. 

I find that the mustard powder in the tins at grocery stores is a tad on the expensive side. Upwards of $4.00/120g expensive. It is possible to purchase mustard powder at a bulk food place but it’s still not cheap.

A glass of cognac never hurt anyone. It transformed the
mustard seeds in a wonderful way. Photo: cyclonebill, Flickr ccl
Here's the low-down on seeds. You can purchase 100g bags of yellow or brown mustard seed in the “international” section of the Atlantic Superstore for $1.19. That’s 1/3 of what the ground mustard powder costs. You can also purchase yellow mustard seeds at the Bulk Barn (our local bulk food place) for $0.59/100g. That's even better – but they have no brown mustard seeds.

I would suggest you keep your eyes open for bulk mustard whenever you go into an "ethnic" grocery. Nearly every culture uses mustard, and uncommon mustards are rare. Therefore those specialties must be made at home...

For this recipe I opted for a French countryside style of “moutarde.” Really the only thing that makes it French is the cognac, but such is life. This mustard has a smoothness from the cognac being soaked into the seeds.

There’s just enough sweet with the brown sugar. It’s actually very nice. Swap out the brown sugar for maple syrup and you’ll have Acadian Cognac Mustard.

As with all homemade mustards wait a few days for the flavour to mellow somewhat. Mustard will keep refrigerated in excess of 4 weeks. This recipe would make a wonderful Christmas or host/hostess gift.

Rustic Cognac Mustard
Makes a scant 2 cups
The seeds, cognac and water after soaking 48 hours.
1/4 cup yellow (white) mustard seeds
1/4 cup brown mustard seeds
1/2 cup cognac
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp mustard powder
1 tbsp brown sugar (or try maple syrup!)
1/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 tsp sea salt

Place the seeds in s small jar with a cover. Pour the cognac and water into the jar with the seeds. Shake and then let sit undisturbed for 24-48 hours.

Place the seeds and soaking liquid in a blender or food processor with the mustard powder, brown sugar, vinegar and sea salt. Process to a paste consistency.

Put in a glass jar, cover for about 4 days before serving. None other than the Great Wikipedia states (with a footnote) that it really isn't necessary to refrigerate mustard because it has great antibacterial properties.

Other places say to refrigerate after they're opened. I routinely refrigerate mine. Better safe than sorry...
Two glass jars of delicious cognac mustard. Ready for gifting.

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