...of the Dijon mustard
It is not quite as ancient as the world, but it has been part of the oldest Mediterranean cultures. For the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans mustard enhanced the flavors in food and enflamed the senses. The Greeks and the Romans called it Sinapsis. They used to grind and add the grains to food.
Originating in the Mediterranean basin, this herbaceous plant with bright green leaves and vibrant yellow petals, produces fruits containing several grains of mustard. The grains of wild mustard or black mustard, sinapis nigra, are ground and mixed with vinegar, grape must, wine or aromatic plants to make the dietary mustard. The word Mustard has its origins in the Latin "Mustum Ardens" which means burning grape must, because the Romans diluted the ground mustard grains in grape must. The grape must is the grape juice that has not been fermented yet, and which gives quite a spiced up flavor to mustard. In the Celt language it was known as Mwstardd, in England it became Mustard and in Norway Mustardhr whereas in Italy they kept the Latin word Sinapis.
Mustard is not quite as ancient as the world
In the first century AD it was found on every Roman table. Apicius even created mustard-based sauces to serve with certain dishes. Mustard was introduced in France when the Romans invaded Gaul. It was adopted easily as wine, vinegar and mustard got along very well.
Manuscripts exist from those days where the words Mustum, Mustardum and Mustarum appear, replacing the word Sinapis, as they substituted a new wine called Mustum to dilute the mustard, whereas the Romans used to use vinegar Acetum.
Mustard was also one of the earliest products to be used in medicine. Pythagoras praised it as an antidote to scorpion bites. Later, war wounds were treated with it. It was even believed that mustard protected against yellow fever epidemics.
In the 9th century Charlemagne recommended growing the spice in all of his estates. In the 17th century it was distributed to the poor of Dijon to protect them against chilblains (inflamed hands and feet as a result of the cold). Today mustard seeds are used in many preparations of preventive and natural medicine.
The 3 glorious dedicacies of Dijon...
Thriving in sunny conditions, the plant multiplies very quickly and is harvested hardly 2 months after dissemination. Ideal to restore the fertility of the ground, as its cultivation allows the soil to rest temporarily.
Of the forty different species of mustard, the most common are the Black mustard, the White, the Brown and the Dijon-Burgundy ones.
With Cream of Cassis and gingerbread, mustard is reputed to be one of the 3 glorious delicacies of Dijon.
Burgundy's chalky and densely wooded soil, rich in potassium and carbon has made possible the harvest of strong and piquant mustard seeds.
With the well earned reputation of fine gourmets, and the gastronomic knowledge and experience, the people of Burgundy were capable of making a condiment that soon became inseparably associated with the city of Dijon: the Dijon mustard.
The best Dijon mustard was the one that was ground with verjuice grape, which is a grape that is a little ripe and is more acidic. Already famous during the 13th century, Dijon mustard was sent to the provinces, dry or in flakes, and it was the user who use to dilute it with vinegar. This way it was able to conserve it for many years. It was in the 17th century that Dijon started to sell liquid mustard like the also renown Angers mustard.
Always present on the tables...
The name Moutarde de Dijon is reserved to mustards in paste made by sifted and sieved products. Always present on the tables of the Dukes of Burgundy, many barrels were regularly sent to the court of French kings, such as Louis XIV who never went anywhere without his mustard pot.
In the 18th century the mustard range was much wider than it is now.
There were lists of types of mustard, such as mustard powder, red mustard, fine mustard with anchovies and câpres, garlic mustard, lemon mustard, à la grecque, à la marquise, à la reine, with truffles, champagne mustard, rose mustard, and the list goes on and on…
They also started using vinegar to dilute the seeds and that's why mustard making was adopted in Orléans too, as Orléans was a major producer of vinegar.
Many producers made both vinegar and mustard. Excellent mustards were also made in Bordeaux and many other towns of France.
Today, mustard is a condiment that is made and used all over the world, in many different ways and in many different recipes.
Authentic Dijon-style mustard however, must follow the original recipe established in Dijon.
To end it on a more spiritual note with mustard in general, here are a couple of sayings on the mustard seed:
« The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field ; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.»
The Holly Bible.
« If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, "Move from here to there," and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. »
The Holly Bible.
« He who has in his heart as much faith as a grain of mustard seed will not enter hell, and he who has in his heart as much pride as a grain of mustard seed will not enter paradise. »
(Sayings of Muhammad)