We did a little grocery shopping last week and picked up, among other things, one of those inexpensive small hams, the kind that you just keep in the fridge and pull out to carve a few slices for a sandwich whenever the mood hits. Earlier today, hungry but in a bit of a hurry and not wanting to spend time cooking, I did just that. I quickly slapped together a simple ham & cheese sandwich, with mustard and mayonnaise. Nothing special.
It filled me up but left me profoundly unsatisfied. In fact I actually felt a little peeved after eating it. I knew this ham would be mostly bland and flavorless when I bought it. But it was cheap and I figured it would serve its purpose well enough.
Not today. Everything about that sandwich irked me: the fact that I spent money on something I normally would not have, the blandness of it all, even the predictable flavors of factory-made mustard and mayo. It was like that once-a-year urge I get to eat fast food, which is always followed by a feeling of regret and self recrimination.
So, what does one do when one's foodie mojo has been sullied? He makes mustard, that's what! Making your own mustard (and other condiments) is one of the most simple and easy things you can do in the kitchen, and can markedly improve just about any dish or recipe you make.
At its simplest all you need to make a good mustard is mustard seed and a liquid binder of some sort (vinegar or even water, for example). Of course there are countless other ingredients you can use to customize a condiment like mustard. I had an old, almost empty bottle of Apple Pie Liqueur I had squirreled away from when we were making appletinis at Stumpjack a couple years ago. I thought the apple liqueur might provide a nice element of sweetness and that the alcohol would offer a bit of additional preservation to the mix. I've also been drying some raw ginger lately and thought that might add a nice cooling element to mustard seed's natural heat.
mustard seed and dried ginger
- 1/2 cup mustard seed
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup Apple Pie Liqueur
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp grated dried ginger
- pinch of sea salt
1. I grated the dried ginger with a microplane (which smells divine) and added it and the turmeric to the mustard seed. Turmeric has a potent earthy flavor and the color is wonderful.
2. I then added the seed/turmeric/ginger mix to a coffee grinder and processed it into a fine powder.
ground mustard, ginger, turmeric
3. Transfer the powdered mix to a bowl, add the Apple pie Liqueur and cider vinegar and mix well with a spoon.
4. Salt to taste.
5. Add water a tablespoon at a time and keep mixing until you get the consistency you want. I added 5 tablespoons water total.
That's it. The flavors come together and mellow out after sitting for a day or two (or three), although this recipe has a fairly solid whoa! factor. Spoon the mixture into a jar, cover it and set it in the fridge...after you smear some on another ham sandwich or piece of sausage and congratulate yourself for making something so darn tasty!
the finished mustard