Mustard is the condiment of many colors. I didn’t appreciate it until I was an adult. As a kid, I wouldn’t touch the stuff. In fact, at school lunch our hamburgers automatically came with a squirt of ketchup and mustard with a single limp pickle slice. I would scrape all of it off carefully with a French fry and then add a ton of ketchup from the packets I carried in my pocket. (Yes, I love ketchup that much—and still do.) No matter how much the lunch ladies liked you, you weren’t getting any more ketchup from them, so there was no use asking.
Of course, throwing that used French fry away was out of the question. I would wipe it clean with a napkin and then dip it in extra ketchup. But it never covered up that mustardy flavor. It was probably in those moments that the seeds for future appreciation were planted. Mustard seeds.
Later in life I learned that, unlike its relatively simple cousin ketchup, there were many types of prepared mustard. And I wondered, what was the difference? Here are some varieties and how they can be used.
Mustard is made from mustard plant seeds. There are different species of the mustard plant. Generally, there is white or yellow, brown or Indian, and black. The seeds themselves are used in cooking and are commonly found in Indian dishes. The different types of mustard that you can find in the store are made by starting with the seeds and adding different ingredients.
This was the only thing I knew as mustard for a long time and it’s probably most people’s first exposure to it. It comes in bright yellow squeeze bottles. It’s a simple preparation of mustard seeds, vinegar, water, and sometimes other flavorings. Turmeric is typically used to give it the yellow color.
A classic on veggie dogs and burgers. I’ve learned to like it, although I still don’t love it. I’m mostly a ketchup fanatic, but once in a while I squirt on a little. (Very good with a crisp piece of veggie bacon on top.) I also give baked beans a squeeze.
Dijon mustard is darker in color. I also think it’s got a more intense, but more mature, flavor than yellow. It typically contains white wine, although it doesn’t have to. Each brand will be different, in flavor and color.
I like it mixed in equal parts with mayonnaise and used as a sandwich spread. It’s also a good choice for deviled eggs. Dijon mustard is a must when making a classic vinaigrette for a salad.
German mustard gets its zippy and unique flavor from the addition of prepared horseradish. This can be substituted for other types of mustard anywhere that you’d like to get the sensation that only horseradish can bring. I make a coleslaw with German mustard and a touch of honey.
You probably recognize that classic yellow box of Colman’s Mustard. I create a hot Chinese-style mustard from this powder. All you do is mix equal amounts of water and powder. It will mellow the longer you let it sit, but it will still have a kick. This is so much better than the mustard that comes in the packets when you order Chinese food. I use it for dipping spring rolls and egg rolls.
There are other varieties of mustards, even some that are difficult to classify. Mustard, the taste I initially found to be unpleasant, seems to take a liking to all sorts of other ingredients. What’s your favorite kind and how do you use it?