Gourmet Mustard Puts the Squeeze on Ordinary Bright-Yellow Stuff

Slather It On


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Mustard, that stalwart friend of coney-dog lovers, is enjoying something of a renaissance. Gourmet varieties line supermarket shelves, a lively mustard-making subculture has sprung up online, and the yellow variety’s chief spice is being touted for its life-prolonging properties.

“Mustard’s always been a part of things,” says Brad Hedeman, who handles Zingerman’s mail-order marketing and product selection. “But now there’s an awareness that mustard is more than something you squeeze out of a yellow tube.”

The National Mustard Museum in Wisconsin showcases 5,600 varieties. Yet Americans have depended largely on the yellow version to enhance meats and finish sandwiches.

That, however, is clearly changing. Exotic varieties line the shelves of gourmet markets such as Plum and Papa Joe’s, which carry a wide variety of brands, including Sabel & Rosenfeld’s Tipsy Russian Mustard with Vodka, McMahon’s Irish Ale Pub Mustard, and Brownwood Farms Famous Kream Mustard. Zingerman’s offers a violet mustard from France made with grape must, which Hedeman calls “really special,” and Raye’s Down East Schooner Mustard, a stone-ground variety from the last stone mustard mill in the United States.

“Mustard complements rather than masks,” says Charley Marcuse, the Comerica Park hot-dog vendor who launched his own brand of the condiment and is working on three more. “A lot of people have four, five, six mustards in the refrigerator. They want a little different taste and texture for different foods.”

Mustard seed comes in three varieties — white, brown, and black — and its cultivation is both easy and cheap. The yellow mustard Americans are most familiar with uses white seeds and includes turmeric — a spice packed with anti-inflammatory properties that can help prevent or alleviate conditions as diverse as arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and cancer (although munching mustard-loaded stadium red hots is hardly a route to good health).

The brown and black seeds are popular in Europe and Asia, where mustard has been put to use in local cuisines for centuries. Dijon, for example, uses brown seeds; Indian cuisine often incorporates the spicy-hot black variety.

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