Photo by Judith Hausman
We had bright-green, curly leaf mustard greens in the spring garden, and now the red mustard greens look wonderful in the autumn garden. Picked small, they zing the salad bowl; larger leaves add their pungent flavor to stir fried greens, and they taste especially good with shrimp.
Along with these fresh mustards, I’m also enthusiastic about making my own jarred condiment mustard. It’s a super-easy and creative way to keep fresh herbs, and packed in a pretty jar, it’s a welcome holiday gift, too.
Most of us seem to still keep some regular ballpark yellow mustard next to the fancier mustard on the shelves of our fridge; and Dijon-style mustard, smooth or grainy, is now a staple.
But watch out now, ham and cheese! You’re going to create your signature mustard now, your very own combo; your hot dogs have never had it so good.
I begin with bulk-dried mustard that I find at East Asian specialty stores or at spice suppliers, such as Penzey’s or Frontier. Avoid the overpriced little jars at the supermarket if you can. The basic formula is water, a little vinegar, and salt and sugar worked into dried, ground mustard to form a paste. Start with about 1/4 cup water to 1/2 cup mustard powder and just keep working the liquid into the mix. Near the end, add 1/2 tablespoons vinegar and 1 teaspoon brown sugar. Pack this mix into clean, glass jars, and put them into a cool place to mellow. It will take roughly two weeks for your custom-formulated mustard to mellow enough to spread on your sandwich.
Of course, the point is that you won’t stop there. Use any liquid you can think of: fruit juice, beer, champagne or a few tablespoons of whatever wine is leftover from your last dinner party. You’ll add honey or brown sugar and some whole mustard seeds. You’ll experiment with classic minced tarragon, kicky bits of hot peppers; chewy, chopped dried figs; rosemary, sage or dill. A few of my favorites are honey-tarragon-whole grain, beer-caraway (great on sausage), raspberry liqueur-rosemary and herbes de Provence with white wine.
This year, I’ll experiment further. I want to try mustards made with orange juice, grated rind and some chunks of dried apricot to serve with a well-ripened cheese, as well as a batch with pomegranate juice or maybe blackberry juice and fennel seed to eventually spread on a chicken or a grilled-eggplant sandwich. Then, I’ll mix whisky or bourbon with a passel of minced herbs from my deck pots to thank a friend for a gift. We’ll split warm biscuits, spread on a thin layer of Judy’s Bourbon-Herb Mustard and slide in a slice of that Tennessee ham he sent me.
As a long-time freelance food writer, Judith Hausman has written about every aspect of food, but local producers and artisanal traditions remain closest to her heart. Eating close to home takes this seasonal eater through a journey of delights and dilemmas, one tiny deck garden, farmers’ market discovery and easy-as-pie recipe at a time. She writes from a still-bucolic but ever-more-suburban town in the New York City ‘burbs.