THE MUSTARD DIARIES | Part I: Sweetness in Europe



As we tramp around the world on our mustard journey, our first stop is in Europe, where the prevalent taste in mustard is "sweet"; from Italy to Belgium, the Europeans like their mustard seed brined with honey, fruit, beer, or wine. 

Mustard was ubiquitous throughout the continent, since the early formation of the nations we know as modern-day Europe, passed along trade routes from the Romans all the way up to the Saxons in the UK. 

The word "mustard" comes from the Anglo-Norman mustarde and French moutarde.  The condiment was originally prepared by grinding seeds into a paste with wine must, hence the Latin mustum, ("must", young wine) and ardens, (hot, flaming).

Hot flaming young wine must. Who knew mustard was so sexy?

The French learned to make mustard from the Romans, and the monks of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris began producing mustard by the 10th century.

Prepared mustard as we think of it now began in Dijon, France in the 13th century. This classic dijon mustard was slightly different than today's version,  a sweet and musty condiment made by brining mustard seeds with wine verjus. Pope John XXll of Avignon was a renowned mustard fan, and encouraged the proliferation of the  mustard trade throughout France, going so far as to create the position of “Grand Moustardier du Pape” or the Grand Mustard-Maker to the Pope for his slacker Nephew who lived near Dijon.  

Itching to answer the age old question, wtf is a grey poupon? In 1777, two dudes in Dijon, Maurice Grey and Antoine Poupon, started a company using Mr. Grey’s creative concoctions and Poupon’s bucks .

As trade routes to the East opened up, the allure of mustard was replaced by the magic of salt and spices. In 1856, the venerable Jean Naigeon, a mustard maker in Dijon, substituted verjus for the vinegar in Dijon mustard and a rockstar was born. Verjus made the condiment smooth and much less acidic. Another French mustard that you probably know of, as it's marketed heavily in the US, The House of Maille was founded in 1747, in Paris. The companies have recently merged into one French mustard conglomerate. They no longer use verjus, as white wine is easier to include in mass production. 

Fruit mustard

Mostarda di frutta was conceived in Lombardy in the 14th century. Large chunks of fruit are preserved in a sweet, hot mustard syrup that was traditionally served with meat and game. Traditional variations of fruit mustards are made throughout Italy, with flavors being localized to different regions. In Mantua, they make a hot apple mustard with small, sour mele Campanine apples that is amazing (Mostarda di Mantova), while in Venice, they make a mild, jam-like quince mostarda (mostarda vicentina). 


Bavaria is the capitol of sweet mustard, sweetened with either sugar, apple sauce or honey. It is typically served with Weißwurst or Leberkäse, and called Weisswurstsenf, or "mustard for weisswursts". As with so much of Europe, Weisswurstsenf varies depending on the region, with little variations in the type of sweetener and texture varying throughout Bavaria. 


Laena McCarthy