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The secrets of mustard production

From harvesting to potting, including the grinding of the seeds, dive into the secrets of mustard making. 

Pungent, tasty, intense and subtle at the same time, mustard is the 3rd most consumed condiment in the world after salt and pepper. In a vinaigrette, a dish in sauce, on a piece of meat or in a pie crust, mustard has many uses and recipes, making it the queen of French gastronomy.

If you are no doubt familiar with the unique taste of this exceptional condiment, do you know how mustard is made ?

The miracles of the mustard flower

At the dawn of summer, the pretty yellow mustard flowers lose their sunny glow and curl up into small green pods, which dry out and become covered in thorns within a few weeks. Then you have to brave the plant's newly hostile appearance to make a surprising discovery in the heart of its dull pods: mustard seeds. These seeds, whose smallness is matched only by their intensity, are the very essence of the condiment that has been delighting the taste buds of gourmets around the world for thousands of years.

 

The question is how mustard is made as it is found on our plates.

We have now arrived at the stage of harvesting the mustard seeds, a key stage in the manufacturing process that must take place at a strategic moment. The plant must be exposed to the sun for a sufficiently long period of time to start producing selenium, a chemical element with many virtues responsible for the strong taste of mustard, but the pods must be harvested in time to avoid being damaged by the first rains.

 

The pods are then dried and shaken to extract all the mustard seeds. These are then immersed for about two weeks with carefully measured liquid ingredients (water, vinegar, white wine, etc.) as well as any spices, fruits, liqueurs and other aromatics.

Stone ground mustard

After the infusion stage, the mixture is ground, preferably using a traditional method cherished by artisan mustard makers: stone grinding. The purpose of this slow grinding method is to prevent the paste from heating up so that the chemical reaction process runs smoothly. Thanks to this artisanal technique, we obtain a product with an unequalled intensity and authentic flavours.

What is the difference between grainy mustard and Dijon mustard?

Granulated mustard, or old-fashioned mustard, corresponds to the paste obtained during the mustard manufacturing process. At this stage, it still contains the rind of the mustard seed which gives it its rustic character. The product can then be consumed as is or sieved to obtain a perfectly smooth paste: Dijon mustard. Each of these products can then be declined at will according to the imagination of the producers: mustard with walnuts, with wild pepper, mustard with grape must, with white wine from Burgundy or with Espelette pepper.

Dijon mustard, the emblem of France

Dijon mustard as we know it today has its roots in the 18th century, when the Naigeon family created a mustard made from verjuice - an acidic juice extracted from grapes before they had finished ripening - rather than vinegar. In the 19th century, the product was a resounding success when Maurice Grey developed a machine to optimise its production.

It was not until the 1930s that a decree established the exact manufacturing process from which mustard must be produced in order to be called "Moutarde de Dijon": it must be obtained from black and/or brown mustard seeds, blended or sifted. Thus, the "Moutarde de Dijon" designation specifically governs the method of manufacture of the mustard, but not its origin. However, there is a PGI 'Moutarde de Bourgogne' from which mustards made from seeds grown in the region can benefit.

Did you know ?

In 2009, the former President of the United States and gourmet, Barack Obama, asked one of his chefs to taste an authentic Dijon mustard. It was with pleasure and pride that the city of Dijon sent him a generous selection of its best mustards.

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