The mustard experiment

A few months ago I was talking about mustard with Laura of Cottage Country North – a wonderful and imaginative jam maker in Owen Sound. We were talking about how strong mustard is and that it always seems to be so much stronger when its first made. All mustard makers know this to be true. Still some mustards are milder than others. Why? Something she heard was that the initial and subsequent strength of the mustard is dependent on the initial temperature of the liquid added to it. Apparently higher temperatures decrease the volatility of the mustard so this experiment will test this.

A little bit of research:

Yes! You get more than a recipe here. I wanted to find out a bit more about what makes mustard tick  – or rather why mustard makes US tick. If you want to delve deeper into the hidden truth of the mustard plant click on the links and go on a journey.

What is mustard?  Mustard is a member of the brassica family  – same as cauliflour, broccoli, and brussel sprouts. Its leaves are eaten in salads, and its seeds are made into prepared mustard. There are 2 varieties of mustard, white (Sinapis hirta) and black (Brassica juncea) In terms of providing your daily dietary needs, it is particularly blessed with phosphorus, though you would need to eat an awful lot of it to get there.

Where is it grown? Canada produces the most mustard in the world  – 27% of the world’s crop.

How does it work? The seeds themselves have no heat on their own. Its only when water comes into play and interacts with the sugars (sinigrin or sinalbin) and the enzymes (myrosin) in the seed  that the resulting reaction  releases their powerful taste.  This also is going to happen if you put it on your tongue, (don’t) or put it into your cooking which will have water that does its catalystic action.

What factors affect the heat and taste of mustard?

Heat of liquid: the cooler the liquid, the hotter the mustard. That’s what this little experiment is all about.

Water/vinegar: Mustard will always eventually lose its pungency. However, the presence of an acid will halt its decline. AnnMarie MacKinnon recommends adding a vinegar once the hotness has dissipated to a point you want.

Type:  Of the two, black mustard is stronger. Putting it all together, fine grinding black mustard, making a thick paste of water, letting it sit 15 minutes, then adding some vinegar to ‘fix it’ should result in a mustard that will leave some searing body memories in your nasal cavities.

How is it used medicinally? Canada’s First Nations peoples added it to animal fat for joint and sprain issues (Rodale Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs). Currently mustard plasts are used to relieve chest congestion. Place the mustard plaster in a cloth and apply the cloth to the skin. Do NOT place the mustard  directly on the skin. Always remove it if irritation is felt.

My process:Mustard experiment (1)

I’ll be making up 3 250ml jars. Each one will have my typical mustard ratio 1:1:1 mustard/apple juice/apple cider vinegar, each at 75 grams, with 3 grams of salt (see my previous mustard blog). I’ve decided to do just three jars because that should show clearly the difference if there is one. The vinegar/apple juice poured into the first jar will be at room temperature  -it was a little warmer than that  –  25 degrees. The second liquid addition  will be at 60 degrees, while the liquid for the third jar will be where it is at a rolling  boil. I will do a  taste comparison after a day, after two days and after a week.Mustard experiment (4)

In order to keep things really consistent: 225 grams of dried mustard, 9 grams of salt mixed in. Likewise, the wet ingredients:  225 grams of apple juice and 225 grams of apple cider vinegar. Before the pot is heated, 150 grams of the apple cider vinegar/apple juice for the first mustard jar is mixed in. The remaining liquid was heated to 60 degrees then added. Since there was considerable evaporation occurring with the boiling, additional apple juice and apple cider vinegar were added to ensure there was at least 150g to pour into the 3rd. jar.  The jars were mixed, labeled and stored at room temperature.


Day  1

25 degree jar: Really very hot, but not inedible

60 degree jar: There was a slight coolness compared to the first jar

100 degree jar: the coolness was more pronounced, but it was still similar to the room temperature jar.

Day  2

25 degree jar: The heat is immediate and intense; it will tend to clear out your sinuses  but dissipates.

60 degree jar: initially seemed a little mild, but then the heat struck, especially at the back of the throat.

100 degree jar: initially mild, then it gets hotter, and then dissipates.


(These results are still to come. I’ll update the post in a week. )

25 degree jar: Its still quite hot – not much change in the week. Its turning out to be a quite classic mustard.

60 degree jar: there is not a lot of difference between this and the 25 degree batch. This is slightly cooler.

100 degree jar: Again its a little mellower than the other 2, but its still good and strong.

Next steps:

Although the liquid temperature did have an effect, there were other issues at play here that may be more profound – notably making a water paste first, then fixing the vinegar when it has achieved the correct heat level.

  • prepare a jar in which the mustard paste has been boiled briefly
  • prepare a jar where the juice/water is added first, then add the vinegar once the heat dissipates, making note of the time.
  • Experiment to compare the relative heat of the black vs. white seeds.

Some other take aways from this:

  • Rodale’s ‘double hot  mustard’ from Rodale Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs: boil 1/3c cider vinegar, ⅔ cup cider, 2 tbs honey, 1 tbs red peppers, ⅛ tsp tumeric, 1 tsp salt. (Based on information  here, this would be even hotter if it were not boiled.)
  • Joshua Bousel’s hot dog mustard recipe: 1/4cup water, 4 tbs dry yellow mustard, 3 tbs white vinegar, ½ tsp all purpose flour, ¼+tsp salt, ⅛ tsp turmeric, pinch garlic powder, pinch paprika
  • AnnMarie MacKinnon’s hot mustard: 1/8 cup (30mL) whole black mustard seeds, 1/8 cup (30mL) apple cider vinegar, ½ cup (125mL) ground mustard, ½ tsp (2mL) salt, ¼ cup (60mL) additional apple cider vinegar, cold * 1 Tbsp (15mL) honey, Enough cold water to smooth out the mustard. Be sure to click the link and check her process. 
  • Although I still really like my ratio approach to mustard, I can now see how my outlook can be broadened: how the heat can be better regulated through a combination of the type of mustard, the temperature, and the process – both boiling the mustard and adding the water before adding the vinegar at the desired heat level.

2 thoughts on “The mustard experiment

  1. Pingback: The ultimate ‘from scratch’ burger | homecookexplorer

  2. Pingback: DIY Hot dog mustard | homecookexplorer

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