“The word comes from must, the leftovers from wine pressing, with which the Romans mixed pungent pounded mustard seeds to a paste.” Beard on Food
Most mustards are made in the same way. The seeds usually are crushed, sifted to separate the hull and the bran, and then further ground or crushed. A liquid (beer, vinegar, water, wine, or a combination of the above) is added, along with seasonings, and the mixture sometimes is simmered and then cooled. Many mustards are aged in large containers before they are bottled and distributed.
Similar recipes for mustard paste appear as early as 42AD. The Egyptians buried mustard seeds with their kings. While they did not use mustard as a condiment, the Greeks believed that mustard improved memory, and the Romans carried the seeds to Burgundy. Dijon, where grape vines were already in profusion, was conveniently located along one of their major trade routes, and the result was inevitable; by the ninth century, French monasteries were making a tidy sum from mustard preparations. In the 14th century, local ordinances in Dijon defined mustard manufacturing rules. Nevertheless, adulteration and contamination persisted until the 16th century, when regulations were instituted that governed the cleanliness of utensils used in mustard production. Later reforms further regulated the profession of the moutardier and made it an offense for anyone else to make the sauce commercially.
In the 18th century, possibly because of competition from spices newly available from the Far East and the Americas, the popularity of mustard declined. It was revived in 1856 when Burgundian Jean Naigeon replaced vinegar with verjuice, creating a less acidic mustard that was smoother and more suave than its predecessors. Modern Dijon mustard was born. While l’ancienne, the old-style, coarse-grained, mild mustard, is still produced in France (The most famous is from Meaux, on the edge of the Champagne region.) the creamy, spicier Dijon product is preferred by the French. Ninety percent of the mustard produced annually in France is Dijon-style, and seventy percent is produced in or around Dijon.
But the French were not the only pioneers in mustard manufacture. At the beginning of the 18th century an Englishwoman named Mrs. Clements began milling mustard seeds like wheat, grinding them and then straining the powder through coarse cloth to remove the husks. In 1814, a flour miller from Norwich named Jeremiah Coleman invented a way to crush the seeds without generating heat and reducing the strength of their volatile oils.
Today the English company named after Mr. Coleman remains the leading producer of powdered mustard worldwide, still utilizing his original process: brown and white mustard seeds are crushed separately between rollers, sifted through silk cloth, then blended together and packaged in jaunty yellow tins. This English pantry staple has a concentrated kick that can bring tears to your eyes and clarity to your sinuses.
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