If your culinary adventures have taken you far enough beyond familiar, bright yellow bottles of prepared mustard that you keep your pantry stocked with whole mustard seeds, you have at your disposal a powerful and versatile source of punchy mustard flavor. Experiment with white, brown and black mustard seeds and delve into making gourmet mustard spreads and pickles, blending mustard seeds with other herbs and spices for flavorful seasoning mixes, and grinding your own coarse or fine mustard powders for adding punch to savory dishes. With all these options you no longer need to worry about mystery ingredients in store-bought preparations. It all starts with crushing seeds, which is very easy to do with a pestle and mortar, electric or manual spice grinder or mini food processor.
Making Dry Mustard
Fresh, whole mustard seeds can be ground into dry mustard to use in a variety of dishes. Crushing the seed with a pestle and mortar will result in larger pieces of cracked mustard, perfect for making deli-style mustards or pickles. To make a powder, toast your mustard seeds for 20 seconds in a dry skillet. Cool the seeds, then transfer to a spice grinder and pulse until you have a powder. Pass the powder through a sieve to remove the hulls. Blend a pinch or two of turmeric with the mustard to create the bright yellow associated with the condiment.
Releasing Mustard's Flavor
Mixing mustard with a liquid releases the sharp, pungent aroma and flavors of the spice. Powdered seeds must be mixed with cold liquid. This combination creates a chemical reaction wherein the mustard oil and an enzyme in the seed produces sugar and the irritants that give mustard its spicy taste and feel on the tongue. When mixed with hot water, the chemical reaction produces irritants that create a bitter flavor. Once mixed with vinegar or salt, the cold-mixed mustard's flavor stabilizes pleasantly.
Mustard, the familiar condiment used on everything from hot dogs to upscale cocktail appetizers, can be made with dry mustard and your favorite vinegars, juices, fruits and spices. Mild white, strong black and the more commonly found medium-strength brown mustard seeds can be used to make flavorful, low-sodium mustards. To make a basic mustard, add a 1/2 cup mustard powder to 3 tbsp. vinegar, cider, white wine, sherry or fruit. Add a 1/2 cup of cold water or white wine and 1 tsp. salt. You can also add several tablespoons of cracked, whole mustard seeds, honey to sweeten to taste and your favorite herbs to personalize the flavor.
More Uses for Mustard Powder
Mustard powder is a component in several regional spice blends. Indian cuisine's garam masala combines mustard with coriander, cumin, turmeric, garlic, and peppers to make a mix used for dry cooking and curries. Spice rubs for barbecue sometimes include mustard powder, along with brown sugar, cayenne, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper. A bay-style spice blend contains mustard, celery salt, bay leaves, cloves, ginger, allspice, peppers, cardamom, mace and cinnamon and is commonly used when cooking crab.
Nadia Nygaard has been writing and editing since 2005. She is published in "Farm and Ranch Living" and has edited projects as diverse as grant proposals, medical dissertations and tenant law handbooks. She is a graduate of the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in English and women's studies.