For most of my life, mustard was the one condiment I avoided completely. We rarely ate it at home, so when a spicy spoonful snuck its way onto a restaurant burger or a school cafeteria tray, the unfamiliar taste left me unpleasantly surprised. Luckily, my adult years have introduced me to an entirely new variety, one that feels slightly more grown-up in comparison to my once-forbidden lunchtime enemy.
While it is easy to equate the smooth, spicy flavors of mustard with the warmer months -- what with all the backyard barbecues and ballpark outings -- those same flavors prove to be a perfect complement to a number of cold weather dishes.
The thought of pickling mustard seeds may seem somewhat strange at first, but these tiny seeds contain just the right amount of mustardy flavor, plus the sweetness of honey and a peppery kick.
After a quick brine, the seeds plump up into bright golden orbs that burst in your mouth. They serve as an unexpected substitution for traditional golden mustard when spread on hearty cold-weather sandwiches, slathered across a thick cut of meat, served with a charcuterie board, dolloped on eggs, or mixed into salad dressings or marinades. I like to think of them as mustard caviar.
1/2 cup yellow mustard seed 3/4 cup white wine vinegar, plus 1/4 cup 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt 2 tablespoons honey 1 teaspoon turmeric 1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Thoroughly rinse the mustard seeds in a fine mesh sieve. Add the drained seeds, 3/4 cup of the white wine vinegar, and the salt to a bowl and set aside. Allow the seeds to soak at room temperature for one hour.
Add the honey, turmeric, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes to the seed mixture, gently stir, and pour into a small saucepan. (If you prefer a different mix of spices, feel free to experiment -- this recipe is very adaptable!)
Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, making sure to stir the bottom and sides of the saucepan regularly. Continue to cook for about 20 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to cool (the mixture will continue to thicken). Once the seed mixture has returned to room temperature, stir in the remaining white wine vinegar. When stored in an airtight jar and kept refrigerated, the pickled mustard seeds will keep well for about 3 months.
Note: The seeds will continue to absorb liquid while they are refrigerated. To keep them from getting too thick, you can periodically stir more white wine vinegar into the jar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, whenever necessary.