Mustard is one of the most popular spices in Germany, especially beloved when it comes to grilling season. A good blob of hot mustard always goes well with a typical German sausage or Bratwurst, no matter what season or weather is just around the corner.
Because it is part of so many different kinds of recipes, it is important to get to know the various type of mustard and what they can be used for.
Personally, I have my own favorite. As there is a manufacturer in my hometown who makes excellent Iserlohn-= mustard, I would recommend no other sort of spicy paste. But I am trying to stay neutral and give you an overview of the large range of products, varying from mild to hot.
What is it that makes the difference between the different types? And which one is best for which kind of meal?
These are important questions indeed, if you consider a common figure of speech in Germany that can literally be translated as, “to add one’s mustard to something.”
This idiom alludes to a person who always tells others his or her opinion without being asked. In past centuries, this phrase indeed referred to real mustard.
Because it was an expensive product, a person added the spice to almost every meal being served – whether it was fitting or not – to flaunt his financial status.
Botanically, the plant belongs to the family of crucifers. The flowering plant can easily be mistaken for canola because of its beautiful yellow color.
- They can grow between 50 and 70 inches.
- The grains grow in pods and are harvested right before the pods start opening.
- Canada leads cultivation of brown and yellow mustard seeds.
The seeds consist of approximately 1/3 oil, 1/4 protein, and so-called glycosides, which are responsible for the hot flavor. The seeds themselves are not hot from the beginning, but start to develop their aroma as a result of grinding and through contact with liquids.
You can easily recreate this process at home. By biting on whole grains, you will taste the flavor after a few moments of chewing, when your saliva has mixed with the glycosides.
A jar of ready-made mustard is hot right from the beginning because it is already mixed and the active substances have already had a chance to react to the liquids.
A mustard’s pungency depends on the amount of seeds as well as the degree of grinding that’s used to make it. While grains of white mustard are quite mild, brown and black ones are used to achieve a hot flavor. The mixing ratio between white, brown and black determines a particular mustard’s flavor and aroma.
Originating in a time before we started spicing up our meals in other ways, mustard has been popular for ages. Historically, the plant was also used for medical purposes. Even today, it is known to be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and useful for stimulating blood flow.
In his ancient work Naturalis Historia, Plinius reports an aphrodisiac effect, while Pythagoras – whom you may know from his famous mathematical equation – tells us that the spice sharpens the mind. I really could have used that advice during some of my geometry classes…
How to Store it
Keep the mustard sealed in jars in a cool and dark place like your fridge. The aroma and flavor will survive for at least a couple of months. Be sure to use a clean spoon or knife when taking some out, so that no foreign substances find their way into the jar.
In the following list, I am going to introduce to you the most common varieties of mustard, their ingredients, their intensity, and some ideas of what to combine them with. I will start with some specialties and proceed with a list of different types, increasing in strength.
Whole Mustard Seeds
Whole seeds can be used for cooking, roasting or marinating. They will develop their full flavor during cooking.
Vecdica Organic Yellow Mustard Seeds available at Amazon
While yellow grains are usually chosen for mixed pickles, you can also grind them for use in mixed spices like homemade curry powder.
Also known as dry mustard or mustard powder, mustard flour consists of at least 80% ground seeds, with the possible addition of other spices or herbs.
Colman’s Dry Mustard Powder 16 oz available on Amazon
You mix it with water and use it like regular jarred mustard. This is a common preparation in English cuisine.
Table Mustard Varieties
Besides the possibility of using whole seeds or flour, the most common way of eating mustard is as a paste. The main ingredients of so-called “table mustard” are ground seeds, vinegar, water and salt, and sometimes additional spices.
Most important for the flavor are the proportions of different grains. Furthermore, the degree of grinding and the use of vinegar both influence the intensity as well.
Lots of producers offer a wide range of different products with special ingredients added like garlic, truffles, or horseradish. Sweeter varieties made with honey, berries, or lemon juice are also available. The addition of these flavors makes it possible to find the perfect version for every kind of meal.
Full Grain (Rôtisseur-mustard)
As its name implies, this mustard is coarsely ground and contains lots of whole seeds, too. This is a perfect solution when it comes to cooking.
Because it is not as sensitive to heat as other types, you can even roast or grill it as an ingredients in meat or fish dishes, and keep the aroma and flavor intact. It is perfect to use in a spicy marinade for anyone who likes it a pungent flavor that’s not too fiery.
Dijon mustard is named after the city of Dijon in France, where the recipe was originally created in the middle of the 18th century. Strict regulations have always existed to ensure that Dijon is made of either brown or black seeds.
The original version also contains verjuice (the juice of unripened grapes) instead of vinegar.
Amora Dijon Mustard (Amazon) is one of the most common and veristale brands found in French kitchens
This product can be divided into mild, medium and hot varieties. You also have the choice between finely or coarsely ground, and therefore the resulting flavor can include everything from fine and subtle to spicy and aromatic.
Dijon is so versatile to use. As it is produced with verjuice, it is an amazing companion to your next vinaigrette for a fresh green salad. If you ever wanted to make some homemade mayonnaise, infuse with Dijon for a tangy flavor.
This variety is really spicy mustard that is made of white and black mustard flour instead of grains.
Colman’s Mustard, 3.53 Ounce (Pack of 6) available at Amazon
There is usually no additional ingredients except spices to create a range of flavored products.
Here in Germany, this version is traditionally eaten in the south. It is usually served with Bavarian sausages or meatloaf, but it can be found in French, Austrian and Scandinavian cuisine, too.
Händlmaier’s Sweet Bavarian Mustard 13.4 Oz / 385 Gr available on Amazon
To achieve the sweet flavor, yellow and brown seeds are coarsely ground, partly roasted and sweetened with sugar, apple sauce or honey.
Lowensenf Bavarian Sweet Mustard, 10.20 Ounce available on Amazon
Due to its flavor, it gives savory meals a nice balance and can also be used for salad dressings.
This version mostly contains yellow seeds, which give it a delicate taste. It is suitable for sensitive eaters who prefer a more mild variety.
When BBQ season is in, mix some soft butter with herbs, salt and this type of mustard. Form it into a roll, chill and serve sliced alongside your steak or bread.
This is also called deli-style mustard, and it is the most popular version here in Germany. It mostly contains white and brown mustard grains and has a fine and subtle aroma.
Hengstenberg Original German Medium Hot Mustard, 8.45 Ounce available on Amazon
It goes well with cold meat and is also a good idea for cold or hot buffets and celebrations, because the balanced flavor is ideal if you are not completely sure about all your guests’ preferences.
An additional idea for snacking: Replace the butter on bread or baguettes with this mustard for a punch of savory flavor!
Hot mustard consists largely of brown seeds with some yellow ones added. If you like it spicy, this variety might be the right one for you.
Landsberg German Mustard, Hot availalbe on Amazon
It goes perfectly well with sausages or steaks in summer.
For brave eaters only. Brown grains dominate, bringing a fiery heat. Use a small portion at first and add more as needed. It can ideally be combined with heavy dishes like a roast, but this is an appropriate companion for steaks or ribs too as a replacement for horseradish.
I do not recommend adding this type to dressings or sauces, because the strong and hot flavor can overpower weaker flavors.
If you need any inspiration for recipes, have a look around and see what you can do with all the different mustard varieties:
- Use ground mustard for mixing your own homemade curry powder.
- Add the seeds to pickled vegetables like zucchini.
- Enjoy some Dijon as part of a salad dressing.
- Prepare a wonderful homemade barbecue sauce for your pulled pork.
Or just stay with the classic use: a nice blob of mustard on your hot dog, sausage or steak when you need that certain something.
About Nina-Kristin Isensee
Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.