Let’s take things one step at a time: mustard is a plant. The mustard concoction is an accompaniment.
The cultivation of mustard has a long history. It is a plant of the northern hemisphere, whose seeds have been found in settlements during the Stone Age.
Egyptians grated mustard seeds in their dishes and when the great king Tutankhamun died, they buried him with a great quantity of these seeds.
Sumerians grated the seeds and created a “paste”, by mixing them with verjus, which is juice from unripe grapes, while the affluent Romans grated them and mixed them with wine during meals.
People have been cultivating mustard for many years, and it has been the basic spice in Europe, before the introduction of spices from the East and of pepper from India. Exchanges with the East had as a result, people from Egypt, India and Rome, chewing mustard seeds in order to spice their meat.
Mustard originates from the ancient Greek word mustarde, which means spice and respectively comes from the French word mostarde. The root of the word, mosto, comes from the Latin word mustum, which means must. Must is grape juice that has not been subjected to fermentation, and was mixed with the mustard seeds to make the accompaniment.
French monks named the mustard, mustum ardens, which means “hot wine”.
Mustard is a volunteer plant, which belongs to the category of brassicaceae, like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage etc. Historians claim that it was first cultivated in India in 3000 B.C. Mustard seeds are mentioned to the Bible as well: it is said that Abraham served beef tongue with mustard- a tasty combination that is considered till now a delicacy. In ancient times, Chinese people thought mustard was aphrodisiac and German traditions have the custom of sewing mustard seeds in the bride’s dress, so that she can have control over the house. Finally, Denmark and India throw mustard seeds around the house to keep the evil spirits away.
Greeks used mustard not only as an accompaniment but also as a medicine. Over the years, it had been used for cases like loss of appetite, acute upper airway obstruction and the prevention of chilblain. Nowadays it is included in pharmaceutics for asthma, hair growth, dermatitis, immune system, even for stomach cancer. It’s such a treasure! Wise Pythagoras recommended mustard for scorpion bites and Hippocrates used it not only as a medicine but also as a poultice.
According to sources, during the campaign of Alexander the Great in the East, Darius sent a bag of sesame to Alexander to state the number of his soldiers and he responded by sending back a bag of mustard to state not only the number of his soldiers but also their strength. A reference to mustard preparation was made in 42 B.C with a recipe of melted mustard seeds into vinegar. Romans brought the seed to Galatia, where monks cultivated mustard in the vineries and made it famous not only as an accompaniment but also as a medicine. They mixed grated seeds with crayfish powder and they applied it on infections and wounds. This sounds like a tasty recipe. Don’t you think?
Pope John the 12th loved mustard so much that he created the special position “Grand Moutardier du Pape” (a person that prepares mustard for the pope) and he gave this position to his unemployed nephew who lived in Dijon. Dijon soon became the center of mustard worldwide. Her importance was so great that law was voted, with which the mustard could be prepared exclusively in that town.
The modern history of mustard preparation began, when two men from town, in 1977, Maurice Grey and Antoine Poupon, set up a company with Grey’s recipe and Poupon’s money (this may be an answer to the people wondering what is a poupon and especially the grey one). A few years ago the firm Maille was created. Benjamin Franklin, the American ambassador in France, brought mustard back to his homeland, when he returned, in 1758. Keens and Sons company in England was set up in the same year with Maille but the most famous English mustard producer is about to appear 50 years later. Colman, a miller, through some clever moves, managed to identify himself with mustard and established his firm in England in 1814. He managed that by perfecting his seed pulverization technique without producing heat, a process that made their attar evaporate and weakened their sharpness in flavor.
Nevertheless, the popularity of mustard had started to decline in 1700, because a wide range of spices had arrived from the East but Jean Naigeon replaced the vinegar in the production of mustard with must of unripe grapes. The result was a soft and less tangy flavor. Dijon became again the capital city of this favorite accompaniment, but the recipe was so simple that anyone could copy it and produce it in another part of the world.
Besides their basic ingredient, all types of mustard have another thing in common: the location where raw materials are produced. The crops of Nepal and Canada are used for more than half of mustard production.
There are about 40 ranges of mustard plants. The ones that are used for commercial productions are the black, the brown and the white. The last one, comes from the Mediterranean, and is the basis for the yellow mustard that we use in hot dogs. The brown one, comes from the Himalayas, and is the mixture that is used in Chinese restaurants in America and in most of the mixtures that are available in Europe and America. The black one is popular in Asia Minor and in the Middle East. This is where is it produced as well. It is not used greatly in the West, as it requires harvesting by hand.
Dijon is not the only place that loves mustard!
Check out our Dijon mustard collection here.
You can also purchase them with just a click on our new eshop.