GRAINY MUSTARD & MUSTARD HISTORY
The origins of mustard are lost to history, but it is a Northern Hemisphere plant, the seeds of which have been found in Stone Age settlements.
Egyptians tossed the seeds onto their food, and sent King Tut to the great beyond with a good supply in his tomb.
The Sumerians ground it into a paste and mixed it with verjus, the juice of unriped grapes.
Wealthy Greeks and Romans ground mustard seeds and mixed them with wine at the table.
Cultivated for thousands of years, mustard was the primary spice known to Europeans before the advent of the Asian spice trade. Westerners had mustard long before pepper, which originated in India. Once trade routes were established, ancient people from India to Egypt to Rome chewed mustard seeds with their meat for seasoning.
Our word mustard comes from the Middle English mustarde, meaning condiment; which in turn comes from the Old French mostarde. Mosto derives from the Latin mustum, the word for grape must, or young, unfermented wine, which was the liquid mixed with ground mustard seed by French monks who made the condiment. The monks’ word for mustard was mustum ardens, meaning burning wine.
By the 1400s, mustard-making had spread through Europe; each region made its own style.
One of the earliest versions was grainy mustard, a more casual name for what is known as old-style or old-fashioned mustard, and moutarde à l’ancienne in French.
Grainy mustard is prepared from a base of mixed mustard seeds, verjus or white wine, spices and herbs. The ingredients are ground coarsely in order to leave the seeds whole.
Grainy mustard has a dark color and a slightly milder flavor than other mustards. It has a slightly sweet taste, making it a good accompaniment for rustic foods like sausages or country-style pates and cornichons. It can be mixed with melted garlic butter and fresh thyme to create a sauce to drizzle over fish, and many other creative preparations.
Here’s more on the history of mustard and the different types of mustard.
*Today, white wine and verjus are used to make some mustard varieties; vinegars are used to make most others.