There was a time in my life—we'll call it my early early twenties—when the only thing that could cure a bad day, or make a great day better, was a trip to the Zabar's mustard section. Like an artist gets lost in a painting, I'd get lost in the Dijons, the honeys, and the weirder flavors like fig and walnut.
Over time, and with the help of a membership to the National Mustard Museum's Mustard of the Month Club, I accumulated more than 80 jars. I'd often spread four types onto one sandwich, and occasionally just eat it with a spoon.
It was an obsession of the not-too-unhealthy type; Google "health benefits of mustard" and you'll get a day's worth of reading. Eventually, though, I started to pick favorites. Mustard Girl's Sweet and Spicy Honey, Amora's Dijon, Fox's Sweet and Spicy Balsamic Garlic, and SchoolHouse Kitchen's Sweet, Smooth, and Hot Mustard came out on top, and the rest faded into mustard oblivion of the loneliest sort. At least they had each other.
Today my mustard collection exists in a pared-down manner: only my favorites, and those with sentimental value or cool jars. I live very far from Zabar's now, so adding to my collection often requires making it from scratch.
Making mustard is quite easy, and fun because there are a million twists that you can put on it. By definition, mustard consists of mustard seed (I like yellow—brown and black seeds are stronger and more pungent) blended with a liquid (often vinegar). I like adding a pinch of salt, some kind of sweetener, and then cooking it down a bit to reduce the hotness.
What follows is a very basic honey mustard recipe, but I encourage you to experiment with different vinegars or other liquids; adding spices (I like curry!); and subbing out the honey for other sweeteners like molasses, sugar, or maple syrup. The kitchen is your mustardy oyster! Just make sure you've got enough hot dogs on hand. —molly yeh
ground yellow mustard seed
white vinegar for a thicker consistency, or more (up to a cup) if you'd like a thinner consistency
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium to medium-low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until it thickens. Remove from heat, let it cool, and then store in an airtight container. You can store it at room temperature or in the fridge. The fridge will preserve its hotness, while storing it at room temperature will let it mellow out. Many people like to let it sit for a night before eating it because the flavors will develop more. I usually don't have that patience, but it's up to you.
Again, feel free to experiment with different ingredients. Red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and also straight-up wine will do the trick in the place of white vinegar. You can also add a bit of hard booze. Sweeteners like molasses, maple syrup, jam, sugar, or a combination are fun as well. A bit of turmeric will yield a bright yellow color and even more health benefits. And spices like curry, paprika, or even wasabi powder are super tasty to add.
molly yeh recently moved from brooklyn to a farm outside of grand forks, north dakota, where her husband is a fifth generation farmer. she writes the blog my name is yeh.
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