(Note: this post was originally published on January 13, 2019. It was the first post on The Rogue Brussel Sprout! The date above reflects migration to the new platform.)
With some simple kitchen chemistry, you can finally free yourself from the condiment aisle. Why buy someone else's mustard when you can create your own unique mustard that's exactly customized to your flavor and texture preferences? Once you start making your own, I promise you'll never go back to store bought.
Making mustard takes a few weeks, but it's quite straightforward and the hands-on time is minimal. The hardest part (and the most interesting and fun part) is making decisions about the end product you want to achieve. Do you want a hot mustard that will knock your socks off? A traditional French Dijon? A sweet, mellow mustard? Do you want it smooth like butter? Or completely whole grain? Maybe a beer mustard? With some creativity and experimentation, you can do it all.
The process encompasses a few steps. (1) Picking your ingredients, combining everything, and aging for several days. (2) Blending to your desired consistency. (3) Aging again. This guide will walk you through these steps, plus through all the possible variations you can achieve. Maybe it's because I'm a lab chemist for my day job, but I find this to be one of my most fun kitchen projects.
There are a lot of options throughout this process, and choosing your mustard seeds is the first. You have three possibilities: yellow, brown, and black. Yellow seeds have the mildest flavor (think simple ballpark mustard), brown seeds are intermediate, and black seeds are the hottest. I prefer a 50/50 combination of yellow and brown, but choose what you like.
The amount you use isn't terribly important since you'll adjust the liquid accordingly. I suggest starting off with small batches (maybe half a cup of seeds) so that you can experiment with different combinations. Once you're happy with your recipe, scale up and make a bunch at once for efficiency.
Where does a creative foodie buy mustard seeds? Many food co-ops and health food stores have them in bulk (look with the bulk spices), which is perfect because you can get whatever amounts and combination you desire. They tend to be reasonably priced, only a few dollars per pound. If you don't have a store that sells them, you may need to order them online.
Your mustard will be based in some sort of liquid, and this is where the fun really starts. In general, a more acidic liquid will temper the heat of the mustard more effectively. The liquids I've experimented with are as follows:
Water yields a HOT mustard (mostly nasal heat) with a simple flavor
White wine yields a moderate mustard with subtle wine flavors
Dark beer yields a moderate mustard with malty flavors
White vinegar yields a mild mustard with simple flavor and a big acid punch
Cider vinegar yields a mild mustard with subtle sweetness and a big acid punch
Of course, just like with the seeds, you can make your own combination of liquids. And these certainly aren't the only options. I personally haven't experimented with others, but additional possibilities include lighter beer, hard cider, or rice vinegar. Stay away from fruity stuff and dark colored stuff (no one wants red mustard, sorry red wine). My personal preference is local cider vinegar (or sometimes a mix of cider vinegar and beer, as shown above), but that's because I love foods with big acid.
You have the option of adding some herbs, spices, sweeteners, or other goodies. I almost never do flavored add-ins, since it allows me to keep a stock of versatile mustard in the fridge that I can then further customize in small amounts for specific applications. But this would be your opportunity to add things like dried herbs (oregano?) or spices (garlic salt? chili powder?). Stay away from anything fresh and perishable.
My only exception is a sweetener. I like my mustard to be a tad sweet, so I add a few tablespoons of maple syrup (my parents make their own, so this is an easy choice for a Vermonter). Honey would work well too. Remember that you can always sweeten it up later (e.g. a honey mustard marinade), so use restraint.
The other key element here is salt. Add salt! I do a few teaspoons of coarse sea salt; it's important for making the flavors pop.
Pour your mustard seeds into a large measuring cup. Add enough liquid to cover them fully, but no more. You can always add additional liquid later but you can't take it out, so don't drown the mustard. Add in any additional spices, herbs, and sweeteners, and add your salt. Give the whole mess a good stir and cover the measuring cup with plastic wrap. Sit it on the countertop somewhere reasonably cool (i.e. no direct sunlight) but not in the fridge.
This is the first of two times when you'll let your mustard rest and develop. A shorter aging process yields a hotter flavor; a longer aging process yields a more mellow flavor. I do either two or three days; I wouldn't leave it for much more than that since it's not refrigerated.
During this time, the seeds will soak up liquid. Take a look at it every day and add some additional liquid as necessary. Strive to keep the seeds just barely covered. Be forewarned that the seeds will puff up as they soak and will approximately double in size, so start with a bigger vessel than you think you need.
You're now ready to blend. I do this with an immersion blender right in the measuring cup since it's easy. A high-power blender could work too, but it may blend very quickly, so keep a close eye on it if you want to retain some whole seeds.
Once again, you have options here. You can do a complete blend into a very smooth consistency for that ballpark mustard feel (in that case, go crazy with the high power blender). You can omit the blending all together for a whole grain texture, which is certainly interesting although it doesn't work well as a dip. Or you can do a partial blend to make a coherent spread that still has whole grains in it. My preference is to blend it about 50-75% of the way, but this is part of the fun and how you'll make your own unique product.
You can add some additional vinegar here if you need, but do so slowly. You want to achieve a smooth spread that is robust and not runny, so add the smallest amount of liquid you need to get there.
Once you reach your desired consistency, it's time to store your almost-finished mustard in the fridge for its second aging period. I put it into small glass jars at this point. I don't recommend plastic since the mustard is pungent and your tupperware will smell forever.
One other important point: resist the temptation and don't taste it yet! Mustard is often quite bitter at this point in the process and you won't be happy.
Put the jars in the back of your fridge and forget about them for a few weeks. The mustard needs this time to mellow and mature. I try to give mine two or three weeks. After that, you're done! Congratulations, you just learned a great new party trick: serving your very own, homemade mustard that will be completely unique.
As written, this procedure is NOT for storage outside the fridge. Your mustard is not properly sanitized, canned, etc, to live in the pantry. It can last in the fridge for months (especially for a vinegar base) but should never be stored outside the fridge. If you give it as a gift, make sure this point is made clear.
This is really the coolest part about making your own mustard at home! Between varying your seed blend, your liquid, and your texture, the possibilities are endless. A few classic combinations to help you get started:
Yellow seeds + white vinegar + full blend = classic, approachable ballpark mustard
Yellow seeds + brown seeds + white wine + partial blend = typical French Dijon
Yellow seeds + brown seeds + dark beer + minimal blend = typical beer mustard
Black seeds + water + full blend = that super hot mustard that comes with Asian take-out
Mustard really has infinite possibilities. I use it frequently in salad dressings, since it gives the dressing great body without having to add a bunch of oil. Use it in marinades and sauces. Use it on sandwiches, on grilled paninis, and in dips (greek yogurt, mustard, and lemon juice makes a quick, healthy, tasty dip for veggies). I often put a little dish of it on cheese boards. Most importantly, have fun with it!
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
Why buy mustard at the store when you can make your own?? Homemade is so much tastier, surprisingly easy, and you have so many flavor and ingredient options. I promise you'll never go back to store-bought!