We call the yellow sauce that we often slather on our hotdogs mustard. But there’s really a lot more than mustard in the sauce. And mustard isn’t always yellow. The plain mustard sauce isn’t yellow because of the mustard even if yellow mustard seeds are used. Turmeric is added to add the tint. And if you use brown, red or black mustard seeds, the sauce will not have the same color as the stuff that comes out of the squeezable plastic bottles that we find on the grocery shelves.
I made mustard today. Two kinds — plain smooth and grainy. Why? Aren’t they available in any grocery? Plain, yes. Grainy, not so easy to find in my corner of suburbia. And mustard, whether smooth or grainy, isn’t exactly cheap. Good mustard is even less cheap.
But that’s not the only reason I wanted to make mustard at home. The flavor of homemade mustard can be customized according to the preferences of one’s taste buds. Like very tangy mustard? Add more vinegar. Want something a bit sweet? Choose between honey and sugar. Want something more earthy than usual? Add cinnamon and cloves. You can have a mustard for your hotdogs, another for marinades and still another for making salad dressings.
But isn’t that impractical? Too much mustard at any given time? Mustard has a very, very long shelf life. It doesn’t even need refrigeration. Apparently, mustard seeds have an anti-bacterial property that defies mold, mildew and bacteria of decay. So, I made a lot of mustard today.
You can buy mustard seeds in the grocery. Yellow and black are both available. Less than 50 pesos (a little over USD1.00 for 100 grams). And how much prepared mustard will 100 grams of mustard seeds yield? About three and a half cups.
Start by soaking the mustard seeds to soften them. I used one part water and one part white vinegar. An hour or two of soaking softens them sufficiently. The seeds will swell so use a 1:3 ratio. One part seeds and three parts liquid.
After soaking, put the seeds with the liquid in a blender. Process until the desired consistency is reached. If the motor of the blender has a hard time, you can add more water to the seeds to help the motor along. Don’t worry if the mixture appears thin at this stage. The sauce will thicken on its own.
How long does the processing last? That depends on the power of your blender. Mine took two to three 30-second cycles. After two cycles with the mixture still a bit grainy, I poured a third into a jar. I processed the remainder for another cycle until it was a smooth paste. In the photo above, the grainy mustard is on the right; the smooth mustard is on the left.
Next, add the aromatics, seasonings and color.
I added more vinegar, salt (I used pink Mediterranean salt because that’s what we have; you can use any salt though I wouldn’t recommend iodized), turmeric, a bit of cinnamon and cloves, and some sugar for balance.
There is no formula here. Just stir, and see and taste as you go along. Want a really bright yellow? Add more turmeric. More tang? Drizzle in more vinegar.
Note that at this stage, the sauce will be very hot. I mean, spicy hot. The heat will mellow over time. More on that below.
When the sauce tastes right to you, you can pulse it a few more times in the blender to make sure that everything you added gets distributed evenly.
Pour the yellow sauce into a jar with a tight lid.
For the grainy mustard, I added the same seasonings but less turmeric and vinegar, and more sugar. And I didn’t put the mixture back into the blender because that would have ruined the grainy texture.
Let the mustard sauce sit in a cool dark place to allow the flavors to develop. It is during this stage that the mustard looses the intense heat and the flavors blend. Some say a week is best. I’ll taste the mustard every 24 hours and compare the overall flavor at the end of a week.