“No, no, I can’t eat that. You can’t eat a sandwich without Dijon” ~ Kramer
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I first met Kate a handful of years ago, at a food swap
We saw each other around, and a few months later, she took a leap and invited us over to her apartment for dinner. A pretty summer's evening, she made her signature crepes, I built a tower of Legos with her son
Friendship has always been a bit awkward for me, but over the love of great food, ours found its footing. It's grown in the months and years since, over many meals that my husband and I have eaten at her table and she at ours
My brother notwithstanding, she's one of the best home cooks I've ever met, and just as thoughtful. Every few months, if not more often, she'll send a note to ask if we'd like to come over for dinner. Always, we say yes
I developed a deep love for no-knead bread with herbed butter at her dinner table. It was served with a cabbage-based dish that I keep meaning to re-create at home, not to mention shots of Russian vodka that will (quite literally) put hair on your chest. When she was doing a week of Live Below the Line, she cooked lentil soup, and Rice-O-Roni that hit the spot so well I ate it at nearly every meal for a couple of weeks after
I covet the little jars of apple and pumpkin butter she brings in the fall, along with the cupcakes she drops off at midnight after a weekend in Iowa City
She's the person who pointed me toward this roasted eggplant dip from Plenty and also gave me my first taste of pirozhkis, a Russian artisanal hot pocket of sorts, made by babushkas (grandmas). They're in the same category as Guests at the Door and her homemade macaroons that are the best you'll ever eat
Because of her, I've added Rice to Riches to my list of places to eat at the next time I visit New York City.
But most importantly, for today's purposes, she's the reason why I have a growing collection of empty caper bottles in the basement. Why, whenever she hears of a family riff, her first response is
“I'll start a batch of mustard. It makes everybody happy.”
Last summer I found myself wandering the streets of downtown Fort Collins when hunger struck
Although a quaint bistro was high on my list of places to stop, I couldn't help but think that the sandwich vendor's cart, less than a block away, had lunch written all over it. The aroma wafting its way noseward was incredible
After tucking the ham and swiss into steaming-hot crusty bread, the vendor wagged her fingers between two pots of mustard “Spicy or no?”
“I'll do ketchup.”
“Oh hun, give it a try with the mustard. My mother's recipes. I promise you'll love it” She chose one herself, flecked with tiny yellow and brown mustard seeds, and slathered it on
I crossed the street and settled myself onto a park bench. The air was crisp with the first hints of fall. I took my first bite and vowed that when I returned home, I'd ask my friend to teach me the secrets of making mustard and stock vast amounts of it in the refrigerator
In the following months, not only have I become a collector of mustard, but I've begun learning how to make them. Not just a type similar to the one that started me on this journey, but I'd love to perfect my father's favorite, made with Guinness
The funny thing is that whenever I tell someone of my latest culinary endeavor, the response is overwhelming. It seems everyone wants to know as well.
It's power cooking at its finest. You, a batch of mustard seeds, and virtually no boundaries. There's nothing like it to elevate the mundane – be it a hot dog, salad dressing, stir-fry, or pasta salad
Her basic technique is simple
First, you soak your seeds in equal parts, liquid and vinegar. Some of her favorite liquids are Earl Grey tea, hoppy beers, vodka, or wine. For the vinegar, anything goes. Your brew sits on the counter soaking for a couple of weeks before blending and adding whatever mix-ins you'd like
Why not use fresh herbs from your garden? Or dried tomatoes from the summer's bounty? Horseradish for those who like it hot. Honey or sugar for something on the sweeter side
Then the mustard is put in the fridge for a couple more weeks to allow the flavors to meld
The overall labor is minimal. Patience is a virtue
— — —
Last weekend, we started twelve different batches, and in a few weeks, we're hoping to have friends over for a mustard tasting party. Much more to come!
In the meantime, do you have any tips for making mustard? Recipes you love that use it? A favorite kind you always stock-up on? I'd love to know ..
(Featured image photo credit: Abe Books)