Our gardens in many lights

dimanche 30 octobre 2011

The mustard that made me cry

Cet article en français. 
Este artículo en español.
2011 seeds harvest, shelled.

Hélène : There's this proverb in french, "la moutarde qui me monte au nez", which is to say "that thing that made me see red". Well this mustard didn't do that, it just made me cry. When I was the proud owner of a lot in a community garden in Montreal, a neighbor gardener gave me some mustard seeds to plant, telling me how wonderful the plant was. True, the leaves are delicious in salads or sandwiches. The seeds can be harvested and used just as they are or maybe to create the condiment of the same name. The only trouble (and the reason for this article's title) is the shelling of the seeds, a long and boring task if you are not well equipped... Like me.

Here's one bearing stalk... I had about forty
to shell like this!

 For 45g of seeds, I worked 8 hours. The method used this year is simple enough : Put the seed pods in a sieve, crush the pods to shell the seeds and collect the seeds in a bowl placed underneath. What's making this more difficult then one would expect is the fact that the process is not that perfect ; Many pods just won't break properly so finishing the task by hand was required. There's also the problem that a lot of remains from the shells and a lot of dust ended up in the seeds anyway. At least, that part wasn't complicated to take care of : swirling the seeds in a metal bowl made all the remains come out on top in a neat pile. Softly blowing on it, the seeds would remain, the detritus and dust would fly off. Do this step outside though, you've been warned! Another method that I haven't tried yet is to crush the pods on an inclined board. The seeds will roll in a bowl at the bottom and the remains of the pods will stick to the board.

But why did I go through all this trouble this year for mustard seeds I could have perfectly well bought at the store for a minimal price? Well, I wanted to make my own condiment from the beginning, from the plant that perplexed me all those years ago at the community garden. All in all, my lesson here is that shelling the seeds, unless you're equipped to do so is not worth it. But making mustard - the condiment - deserves to be tried at least once! The first reason would be because you can perfume it the way you want : honey, sugar, ginger, lemon, dattes, grapes... why not maple syrup?
First off, my mustard was made from red wine vinegar and honey. The process is simple, you soak the seeds (or the seed powder) in either water, liquor or vinegar. From what I read on the web, mustard in water will have a shorter expiration date then in liquor or vinegar, a feature that directed my choice. Some sources say to leave the seeds to soak for 2 hours, others claimed an entire night was better. Since I wanted my mustard as soon as possible, I opted for the 2 hours and maybe in retrospect this is why my mustard was hard to grind. I'll admit that with a mortar and pestle it's long. About at the third of what it would have taken me to grind it well, I decided to transfer it to a hand blender, but a real blender or a grinder would possibly have made a better job. I added honey and voilà ! Mustard, the condiment. Again, some sources said to let it sit for a day so it would develop flavors, others swear the taste really comes into it's own after a couple of weeks.

We had a meal the next day that required the mustard so we tasted it at that moment and it was delicious! It is definitely something I want to try to make again and next time, I'm flavoring the mustard with... mead. One last thing. The first time you open that new, beautiful homemade jar of mustard, remember your science classes : With a wave of the hand, bring the smell to your nostrils. Don't plunge your nose in that jar or you will end up like one of those people choking in videos on Youtube ! After all, you just created something very powerful!

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