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Friday, September 16, 2016


Mustard Plant
Photo by: Lord-Williams
L. Sinapis alba, Ar. şināb, Fr. moutarde, Eng. white mustard. It is a plant that originated from a weed growing in central Asia. After it was discovered that the pungent seeds improved the flavor of meats it was cultivated and brought to Asia Minor. From there it came to Africa and Europe. At first Greeks and Romans used mustard only as medicine, finding the leaves and crushed seeds good for sore muscles. Pliny prescribed it to cure all pains in any part of the body, lethargy and epilepsy. It was thought good to curb female hysteria.

During the Middle Ages mustard seasoned innumerable dishes and was thought to be a good blood thinner. The leaves and seeds are used as emetics, stimulants and irritants. It was mixed with vinegar and almonds to prevent it from rising to the brain, which was thought dangerous.
Summer Harvest
Photo from: Daniel Bachhuber

The Ancient Greeks began to grind up the seeds and sprinkle them over their food. It is not as pungent as black mustard. Romans used white mustard and found that pulverized seeds kept grape juice from spoiling and they used them in wine. Grape juice was called must and mustard seed was “mustseed.” In England this custom was adapted. There, mustard became the poor man’s spice. In medieval Castile, it was served with fresh boiled beef and pork. In Andalusia, leaves were added to salads and ground mustard was added to vinaigrettes and preserves.

Black and White Mustard Seed
Both black and white mustard are powerful preservatives especially against bacterial growth and mold, which explains it’s frequent used in pickling sauces and marinades. White mustard, however, is the best while black mustard has a stronger flavor.

In medieval times it was not the mustard known today for it was not until 1720 that a Mrs. Clements of Durham, England discovered how to bolt mustard powder, i.e. successively sifting it through fine screens to remove the outer hull of the mustard seed and grinding the seed in a flour mill to obtain the more flavor. With the patent she received from King George I, Durham Mustard came into being, which was later taken over by Jeremiah Colman, who in 1866 perfected the technique further by grinding the seeds without creating heat. This prevented the evaporation of the oil giving still more flavor to the product. To “cut the mustard” is not an ancient expression. It was not documented until 1903 in reference to harvesting it. The best flavor comes with the processing, i.e. “if you can’t cut the mustard, you can’t supply what is best.”

A Curious Combination Mustard Seed Sauce, Must and
Mustard Seed Sauce in Must
(see blog titled Mosto)
Photo by Lord-Williams

[Bremness, 1990:60; ES: Carroll-Mann. Guisados 2-art. Jun 6, 01:ftn 124; Curye. 1985:13; ES: Jordan. Jul 96; ES: Mustard. Apr 27, 03; ES: Simpson. Dec 21; ES: Sorrenti. Apr 4, 02; and Villena/Calero. 2002:23a]

HOW IT IS MADE ADAPTED FROM HUICI’S TRANSLATION OF ANÓN AL-ANDALUS #130 CÓMO SE HACE (a recipe to prevent mustard from rising to the brain!)


¼ c mustard seeds
salt to taste

1 c broth
½ c almonds
1 slice of day old bread
2 tbps vinegar
1 tbsp honey


Wash seeds and then scald with three times with boiling water.

Nothing is More Delightful than a Kebab
with a Dab of Mustard Sauce
Grind mustard seeds in a coffee grinder, a stone or wood mortar or a food processor. Wash them in hot water. Drain and return to mortar or food processor.  Add salt.

Add water and stir well. Let sit 10 minutes. The strength of the mustard depends on the length of time the sauce is left to sit, the longer the milder.

Place almonds in a pot with water, bring to a boil and remove from burner. Peel by snapping the nut out of its skin. Toast peeled almonds.

Soak the bread in vinegar.

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor. Add more broth if necessary to make the sauce creamy.

Pour into a glass jar. Refrigerate overnight, at least 10 hours before using. This recipe can last refrigerated for one year.


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