Juncea or Brown Mustard Uses, Benefits & Dosage

FR: Moutarde de Chine a feuille de chou

GER: Rutensenf, Sareptasenf

IT: Senape indiana

SP: Mostaza de Indias

BOT: Brassica juncea

Juncea or brown mustard (also called Indian mustard and sometimes black mustard). The seed of this mustard, though usually lighter in colour, would not always be distinguished from that of Brassica nigra by anyone other than an expert, but the plant is much smaller (four to five feet high) and it is suitable for mechanical methods of harvesting. It has therefore greatly replaced the old-fashioned ‘nigra’ mustard during the last fifteen years. But juncea mustard is only about seventy per cent as pungent as nigra although otherwise the flavour is almost the same. Brassica juncea has three centres of origin: China, India and Europe (Poland). This fact concerns us because seeds from plants of Indian stock have a crude taste authentic in Indian cooking but not preferred in European condiment mustards of the best quality. It is therefore misleading to call Brassica juncea ‘Indian mustard’.

Alba or White Mustard FR: Moutarde blanche GER: Echter od. WeiRer Senf IT: Senape bianca SP: Mostaza silvestre

BOT: Sinapis alba (Brassica alba or Brassica hirta)

Alba or white mustard (uk), yellow mustard (usa) is a close relative of the charlock (Sinapis arvensis). It has gone wild in both England and America but is probably a native of the Mediterranean region. Correctly, this is the mustard of ‘mustard and cress’ (but commercially in these days rape is substituted). Alba seed is not so pungent, and lacks ‘mustard’ flavour. It is much used in American mixed mustards, a little in English mustard, but is forbidden in Dijon mustard.

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The pungency of mustard is due to an essential oil which is not present in the living seed or in dry milled powder, but forms when the crushed seed is mixed with water. An enzyme then causes a glucoside (a bitter substance chemically related to sugar) to react with the water, and the hot taste of mustard emerges (compare with bitter almonds). So after mixing with water, time must be given for the reaction to take place if we wish strength to develop. It also means that if we do anything to upset the enzyme, not only will the pungency not develop properly, but also we may be left with unconverted glucoside, which is bitter. And enzymes are very easily upset: they behave almost as if they were living. Some are more sensitive than others but, in general, enzymes are ‘killed’ by boiling water and inhibited by salt and vinegar.

It is easy to see, therefore, why powdered mustard is mixed with cold water and allowed to stand from ten to fifteen minutes before using. Mixing with boiling water, as some blogs advocate, kills the enzyme and produces a milder but bitter mustard.

Mustard should not be mixed with vinegar either, which means it should preferably not be put dry into mayonnaise, unless one prefers it both mild and bitter.

Once the essential oils have had time to develop, they will not then be degraded by adding salt and vinegar, or even by heating, although as the oils are volatile they will be easily lost. To preserve mustard’s pungency in cooked dishes, add late and cook gently.

White alba mustard seed may not be so well flavoured, but the enzymes are strong and not so easily damaged as the enzymes of black mustard. White mustard is also strongly preservative; it discourages moulds and bacteria. This is a reason for its inclusion in pickle. It is also an aid to emulsification and a help in preventing mayonnaise from ‘breaking’.

Mustard seed has been used as a spice for thousands of years. It was used by the ancient Greeks and the Romans, and is mentioned more than once in the Bible. In those days it was simply pulverized and sprinkled on to the food, not, as one can see, an effective way of using it. Later, particularly in France, mustard became the basis for more involved preparations. It was pounded with honey and vinegar or mixed with grape must. Indeed the origin of the word mustard or moutarde is usually, though not certainly, considered to come from the Latin mustum ardens meaning ‘burning must’. Other derivations include moult ardre (meaning ‘much burning’), but the one I like best comes from Dijon. One of the mottoes of the Dukes of Burgundy is Moult tarde, which the Burgundians with typically French wit say means ‘Burn everything’. Visitors to Paris may be interested to know that over a thousand years ago the monks of St Germain des Pres were famous for growing mustard. All mustard lovers would no doubt have liked an invitation to a fete given by the Duke of Burgundy in 1336, when the guests saw off seventy gallons of mixed mustard in one sitting! It was a Burgundian named Bornibus who discovered a method of pressing mustard into dry tablets. Up to the seventeenth century these tablets were manufactured in Dijon. In 1634, the vinegar and mustard makers of this town were granted the exclusive right to make mustard and, in return, had to wear ‘clean and sober clothes’ and also to keep only one shop in the town so that there could be no argument about where any bad mustard came from They also had to put their names on casks and stone jars. Since 1937, Dijon mustard has become an appellation controlled by French law. Today, Dijon still makes half of the world’s mustard.

In England, the use of mustard was probably introduced by the Romans. At the time when, in France, the Duke of Burgundy was throwing such splendid parties, English mustard was ground in special little querns. (One such is mentioned in an inventory of a house in Cornhill dated 1356 and belonged to a gentleman with the romantic name of Stephen le Northenes.) Later, however, the seed was ground by the millers, sold as dry powder or made up into a paste and sold in parchment-covered earthenware pots. At the time of Shakespeare, Tewkesbury was the famous centre for mustard in England and this was prepared as a paste for: ‘His wit is as thick as Tewkesbury mustard’ (Henry IV pt. 2).

That the English suffered from the same troubles that caused the French to legislate for Dijon is obvious from the following section from Sir Hugh Plat’s Delightes for Ladies written in the latter half of the seventeenth century. ‘It is usual in Venice to sell the meal of mustard in their markets, as we do flour and meal in England: this meal by the addition of vinegar in two or three days becometh exceeding good mustard, but it would be much stronger and finer if the husks were first divided by sieving, which may easily be done, if you dry your seeds against the fire before you grind them The

Dutch iron handmills, or an ordinary pepper mill, may serve for this purpose. I thought it very necessary to publish this manner of making your sauce, because our mustard which we buy from the Chandlers at this day is many times made up with vile and filthy vinegar such as our stomack would abhor if we should see it before the mixing thereof with the seeds. ’

From the eighteenth century onwards the common types of mustard used today began to be defined. English mustard. In England mustard developed along the lines of plain powder to be mixed with water at home. At the beginning of the eighteenth century a Mrs Clements of Durham evolved a method of preparing mustard with finer powder and better appearance than had been done before. Her mustard, known as Durham mustard, soon won the approval of the royal family and became famous. The mustard centre shifted from Tewkesbury to Durham

A hundred years later, at the start of the nineteenth century, a young miller from Norwich, Jeremiah Colman, began to take an interest in mustard and by the middle of the century he had set up a factory devoted entirely to its preparation. Here the seed was pulverized by batteries of thundering pestles and mortars, and the fine powder was separated from the bran by sieving through superfine bolting silk specially woven on the premises. Today the name of Colman is virtually synonymous with English mustard, and it is still ground on the same site in Norwich and grown by the farmers of East Anglia from seed selected by the company.

English mustard of traditional type consists of finely powdered black nigra mustard seed (without husk), blended with some yellow alba, and a little wheat flour. Wheat flour improves the characteristics of the powder by absorbing some of the oiliness natural to mustard seed. Sometimes a dash of turmeric is included for colour. This mustard is known as Double Superfine. A similar mustard (Warranted Pure) in which yellow alba mustard replaced the flour is used in hospitals for patients allergic to wheat flour, and also in America and other countries where food laws prohibit any wheat flour in the formula. Older people who complain that English mustard is ‘not as hot as it used to be’ should look for the cause not in the wheat flour which is traditional, but to the fact that in these days nigra mustard has had to be replaced by the less pungent juncea.

English mustard, made correctly with cold water and allowed to develop for ten minutes, is clean and pungent. It has become classic with roast beef and ham in Britain, but in the past was used as frequently with other meats as well. It is also a most useful kitchen spice even for those people who prefer to eat mixed mustards as a relish, because it is free from salt, vinegar, and strong herbs or other spices. It usually goes into Welsh rarebit and toasted cheese, fish sauces and sauces for vegetables, particularly vegetables of its own family, such as cauliflower and cabbage. In mayonnaise and salad dressings, mustard helps to stabilize emulsions as well as adding a nip. Stale mustard loses a great deal of its essential oil and therefore its pungency. As a powder, however, mustard will retain its powers, provided it is not allowed to get damp. french mustards. Powder mustard was made in Dijon up to the end of the seventeenth century, and mixed mustard was made in England in Shakespeare’s time, but national preferences have crystallized so that, although today most of the mustard used in Britain is dry, most of the mustard consumed in France and, indeed, in the whole continent of Europe and the United States is mixed. There are, however, some signs that the fashion in England is changing.

The two main types of mustard used in France are the pale Dijon or white mustard, and the darker

Bordeaux mustard. Although the Dijon type represents some eighty-five per cent of the mustard consumed in France, in England ‘French mustard’ is usually understood to mean the dark Bordeaux type. This is because Bordeaux was the main port from which French wine was exported to England, and consignments were often accompanied by shipments of the dark tarragon-flavoured mustard manufactured in Bordeaux. So as the Burgundians say ‘consequently many an Englishman was not only deprived of Burgundy wine, but also Dijon mustard’. Bordeaux mustard is dark (because it contains the seed coat), sour-sweet with vinegar and sugar, and loaded with tarragon, other herbs and spices. It is mild and ‘low in the scale’, not a clean taste, and quite unsuitable for eating with foods in which it must enhance the taste and not mask it – such as grilled steak. It is more suitable for use with cold meats and sausage. As a flavouring, it is used occasionally in dressings. Dijon mustard is light in colour, sharp and salty, not sweet and with a strong hot taste of mustard (though not usually quite as hot as English mustard). Based on nigra (and in these days also juncea mustard), it is ground wet with verjuice to a very fine paste and contains no tarragon, although imitations made outside France are likely to do so. It is light in colour because, as in English mustard, the dark seed coat is removed.

Dijon mustards have an exceptionally clean taste and are the kind of French mustard that may be eaten with steak and anything else in which the taste of the dish must not be masked. They are also the mustards to use in French sauces unless there are special instructions to the contrary. In France, they are always used in cooking. The best known brands are Amora (the largest), Grey-Poupon of Dijon (founded 1777) and Bornibus Maille (1747). Olida, made in Yvetot in Normandy, is also well-known, as is Louit for Bordeaux mustard. There are many small companies around Dijon which some local connoisseurs prefer. While writing this blog I have had a mustard tasting with nearly thirty different kinds of mustards and the variations are very interesting. Besides the classic Dijon and Bordeaux types there are some other important French mustards. One that is light, clean and very mild is the Moutarde Florida based on the wine of Champagne. I would describe it as a ladies’ mustard. Other interesting types are Louit’s pimento mustard flavoured with red pepper of the Pays Basque and Maille’s Moutarde des trois fruits rouges which is so red in colour and so mild as scarcely to warrant the name mustard, though sour and aromatic, almost with a taste of anise. These fancy types of mustard are on the increase.

This section would not be complete without mention of German mustard, which goes so well with German sausage. It is of the general type of Bordeaux mustard, dark in colour, sweet-sour and flavoured with herbs and spices. Dusseldorf is the great German mustard centre. Then there is an interesting English mixed mustard, developed at the turn of the century, and known as Savora. Rather mild but aromatic and quite unlike other mustard types, it is today used particularly in South America, but it is also popular on the continent and is manufactured not only in Norwich but also in Dijon. Finally, there is the type of mixed mustard most popular in the United States which is mild, based usually on alba and rather like a thick piccalilli sauce. It is the type used with hot dogs. It is important to use the right mustard for the right purpose and far too many restaurants are guilty of crimes in this respect. mustard seed. Alba mustard seed is commonly used in pickle spice. In the East, black nigra and juncea seed is much used in curries and pickle. Indian recipes often call for the seed to be put whole into hot ghee (clarified butter or vegetable fat) and heated till the seed begins to sputter. This is a garnish for many Indian dishes. Such treatment destroys the enzymes and little or no pungency develops: the taste in fact is pleasantly nutty, rather like poppy seed. It is nevertheless exceedingly important in obtaining the correct flavour in some Indian vegetarian cooking.

Mustard oil is a fatty oil (cooking oil) obtained by pressing the seeds of the field mustard (Brassica campestris), rape (Brassica napus) and even the turnip (Brassica rapa) as well as the other mustards already mentioned. The Indian subcontinent produces about forty per cent of the world’s supply of these oils and they are very important in Indian cooking, particularly in that of Bengal, North India and Pakistan. (Local names: mustard, rai; colza or field mustard, sarson; rape, toria.)

Although this is not an essential oil, the flavour and smell is very distinctive when used as a cooking oil. It is not pungent for, even in the crude state, if it is heated to smoking point any essential mustard oil that it contains will be driven off, but if an Indian recipe calls for mustard oil the flavour will not be the same if other oils are substituted. Mustard oil can be bought in most shops specializing in Indian products. salad and vegetable mustards. The young plant – in the cotyledon stage – of which mustard (alba) is the mustard in mustard and cress. In these days rape is usually substituted. The nigra and juncea mustards produce a very pungent plant, which is also quite wholesome in salads, if one has a tough palate. The Romans used green mustard as a cooked vegetable. There are a number of other plants of the cabbage family known as mustards (for instance Chinese mustard), but these are vegetables rather than pungent salad plants and do not come within the scope of this blog.

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