History of Mustard as a Condiment

An article by Peggy Trowbridge Filippone 
published on
The Spruce

History of Mustard as a CondimentAs a condiment, mustard is ancient. Prepared mustard dates back thousands of years to the early Romans, who used to grind mustard seeds and mix them with wine into a paste not much different from History of Mustard as a Condimentthe prepared mustards we know today. The spice was popular in Europe before the time of the Asian spice trade. It was popular long before pepper.

The Romans took the mustard seed to Gaul, where it was planted in vineyards along with the grapes. It soon became a popular condiment. French monasteries cultivated and sold mustard as early as the ninth century, and the condiment was for sale in Paris by the 13th century.

In the 1770s, mustard took a modern turn when Maurice Grey and Antoine Poupon introduced the world to Grey Poupon Dijon mustard.

History of Mustard as a CondimentTheir original store still can be seen in downtown Dijon. 

In 1866, Jeremiah Colman, founder of Colman’s Mustard of England, was appointed as mustard-maker to Queen Victoria. Colman perfected the technique of grinding mustard seeds into a fine powder without creating the heat which brings out the oil.

The oil must not be exposed or the flavor evaporates with the oil.

Mustard Species

There are about 40 species of mustard plants. The three species that are used to make mustard are the black, brown and white mustards. White mustard, which originated in the Mediterranean, is the antecedent of the bright yellow hot dog mustard we are all familiar with. Brown mustard from the Himalayas is familiar as Chinese restaurant mustard, and it serves as the base for most European and American mustards. Black mustard originated in the Middle East and in Asia Minor, where it is still popular. Edible mustard greens are a different species of mustard. The history of cultivation of mustard centers on the seeds, not the greens, which have been credited with originating both in China and Japan.

History of Mustard as a Condiment

Mustard’s Medicinal History

Long ago, mustard was considered a medicinal plant rather than a culinary one. In the sixth century B.C., Greek scientist Pythagoras used mustard as a remedy for scorpion stings. A hundred years later, Hippocrates used mustard in medicines and poultices. Mustard plasters were applied to treat toothaches and a number of other ailments.

Mustard’s Religious History

History of Mustard as a CondimentThe mustard seed is a prominent reference for those of the Christian faith, exemplifying something that is small and insignificant, which when planted, grows in strength and power.

Pope John XII was so fond of mustard that he created a new Vatican position—grand moutardier du pape (mustard-maker to the pope—and promptly filled the post with his nephew. His nephew was from the Dijon region, which soon became the mustard center of the world.

Mustard in Modern Culture

History of Mustard as a CondimentWe all know that losers and quitters can’t cut the mustard (live up to the challenge), and perhaps the reason ballpark mustard is so popular is because pitchers apply mustard to their fastballs to get those strikeouts. The disabling and even lethal chemical weapon known as mustard gas is a synthetic copy based on the volatile nature of mustard oils.

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Honey and Mustard Sauce / Honning- og Sennepssaus

A medieval spicy sauce recipe found at cookit.e2bn.org
Medieval Monday_headingHoney and Mustard Sauce_post

Mustard was much used by the Romans and later was very popular with the Anglo Saxons. It grew locally and so was cheap. It could be used to makes sauces for meat and fish as well as dressings for salads. It helped to preserve other foods as well as having healthy properties of its own.

The sauces were generally made from a mixture of ground mustard seeds, vinegar, wine and often honey, with spices or other flavourings added according to what people liked.

They could then be stored for several weeks. Mustard’s ‘hotness’ gets less after it is mixed and kept for a few days, which may account for the strength of the sauces often made – which would be much too hot for most of us today.

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Lumbard Mustard / Lumbardisk Sennep

A fourteenth century recipe found on Let Hem Boyle
Medieval Monday_headingLumbard Mustard / Lumbardisk Sennep

saaraSaara whe runs Let Hem Boyle writes: I have to say that I love mustard! All different kinds of… it can be strong, mild, vinegary, spiced.. I do like them all. Making mustard for an event has been a plan for long time, but I haven’t done it until Midwinter Feast. This recipe is great! You can make it beforehand and store it in the fridge. It will be good stored in fridge for couple of weeks.

Take mustard seeds and waishe it and drye it in an ovene, grynde it drye. Farse it thurgh a farse. Clarifie hony with wyne and vynegur and stere it wel togedrer and make it thikke ynowz. And whan thou wilt spende thereof make it tnynne with wyne.

Original recipe from Forme of Cury, 1390

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