a class in the Society for Creative Anachronism by Jadwiga Zajaczkowa
Mustard sauces are among the most mentioned sauces in period food texts and cookbooks, both medieval and Renaissance. Mustard seeds also show up in late period pickle recipes and in recipes where an extra 'bite' is wanted.
Mustard was cultivated and eaten in Ancient Rome, and was known in France at the time of Charlemagne, and in England and Germany by the 12th century (1100's). The Christian Bible speaks of one who has 'as much faith as a mustard seed' being able to 'remove mountains'; when you consider that the tiny black mustard seeds grow into 6-foot-high plants sturdy enough for birds to nest in them in a single summer, you can understand why! The yellow mustard plants you see in fields in the spring are a relative of mustard, Brassica Sinapstrum, also called charlock.
Rosetta Clarkson, in Green Enchantment: The Golden Age of Herbs
and Herbalists, says that some monasteries actually had a monk
called the 'mustardarius' whose duties included mixing the mustard
for the community. Mustard sauce could be used on meat or on fish,
and in the days when you ate fish three times a week at least, and
people ate a lot of cold, pre-roasted meat, no wonder it was popular!
Menagier de Paris suggests mustard sauce with wild boar, beef tongue,
and lots of different fish, including eel, shad, loach, lampreys, cod,
stockfish, and whiting. Anne Wilson, in Food and Drink in Britain,
says, "Mustard was eaten with fresh and salt meat, brawn, fresh fish
and stockfish , and indeed was considered the best sauce for any dish.
As in Roman times mustard seed was pounded in the mortar and moistened
with vinegar. French mustard had powdered spices added to it, while
mustard was made up thick with honey, wine and vinegar, and thinned for
use with wine."
Mustards were so popular a sauce in period because they possessed moderate heat, and therefore were good with cold dishes such as brawn, [boiled] beef, and fish such as cod. Medieval doctors and health-hobbyists like Platina suggested it to counteract 'cold' foods and 'cold' conditions. It was drunk and gargled with in wine for sore throats; Dioscorides (a first-century Greek) suggested 'mustard plasters' to help with 'pain of long continuance' (probably on the same principle as Tiger Balm). But indications in books such as Le Menagier de Paris treat mustard as the basic sauce, except for salt, to be provided (much as we provide ketchup in everyday cooking today). Sometimes, the higher ranks of the tables got a variety of sauces while the lower ranks only got mustard sauce.
Hildegarde of Bingen says "Mustard is of a very hot and somewhat dry nature... Its seed flavors other foods." She didn't approve of it for sick people, but said, "One who likes to eat mustard should pour over it wine which he has heated. Consumed in this way, it does not harm sick people. Its injuriousness is removed by the heat of the wine. If one does not have wine, he may pour cold vinegar on it. Eaten in this way it is not harmful. If it is not tempered by wine or vinegar, it is not good for human consumption."
Platina says, "It is considered very useful to the stomach, drives out ills in the lungs, lightens a chronic cough, makes spitting easy, is given food to those who are gasping, purges senses and head from sneezes, softens the bowels, stimulates menstruation and urine, and cuts phlegm. When smeared on an ailment of the body, it shows the force of its burning."
Mustard sauces were generally made with ground mustard seeds-- black was considered better than white-- (sometimes mixed with other spices such as pepper), moistened with 'wine must', vinegar or wine. Honey or sugar was also added in a number of recipes; breadcrumbs and raisins appear in some recipes. (Platina says, "If you want it sweet, add sweet things; if sour, sour.")
Mustard sauces were constructed in different ways depending on what
they were to be served on, and the season of the year. Foods which the
humoral system considered 'hotter' and hotter seasons got less 'hot'
and 'dry' ingredients (spices, wine) and substituted ingredients considered humorally cooler (verjuice).
Nowadays we buy mustard flour, ground and sifted/bolted in the same manner as wheat flour, but Sarah Garland in The complete book of herbs and spices, and Rosetta Clarkson in Magic Gardens: A modern chronicle of herbs and savory seeds, say that the modern process for bolting mustard flour was not invented until the 18th century (1700's). I
Instead, you could buy mustard meal in some places: Plat's Delights for Ladies says: "It is usuall in Venice to sell the meal of Mustard in their markets as we doe flower and meale in England: this meale, by the addition of vinegar, in two or three daies becommeth exceeding good mustard." (Apparently he liked his mustard mild too.) But mostly you ground it at home, either with a mortar & pestle or with a mill in later times. You could also buy your mustard sauce ready-made, if you lived in the city: Le Menagier de Paris directs the reader to buy "At the sauce-maker, a quart of cameline for the dinner, and for supper two quarts of mustard."
There is some indication by modern medicine that mustard flour actually retards
the growth of food poisoning bacteria such as E. coli, though the addition of
a weak vinegar actually slows this down.
The modern mustard most similar to period mustard is probably Dijon:
From the Larousse Gastronomique:
"In 1390 the manufacture of mustard was governed by regulations: it had to be made from 'good seed and suitable vinegar', without any other binder. The corporation of vinegar and mustard manufacturers was founded at the end of the 16th century at Orleans and in about 1630 at Dijon. In the 18th century, a Dijon manufacturer called Naigeon fixed the recipe for 'strong' or 'white' mustard, the production of which was synchronized with the wine harvest, as the black and brown seeds were mixed with verjuice. Today, Dijon mustard is prepared with verjuice and white wine, Orleans mustard with white vinegar, and Bordeaux mustard, which is milder and brown in color, with grape must (the French word for mustard is derived from moute ardent, i.e. 'piquant must'). Meaux mustard, which owes its flavor and color to coarsely crushed seeds of various colors, is made with vinegar, particularly at Lagny."
From Marx Rumpolt, Ein New Kochbuch, c. 1581:Brown Mustard Sauce
Brown mustard made up with clear vinegar/ is also good.
|English Housewife, Gervase Markham, 1615
"The most general sauce for ordinary wild fowl rosted, as Ducks, Mallard, Widgeon, Teal, Snipe, Sheldrake, Plovers, Puets, Guls, and such like, is only Mustard and Vinegar, or Mustard and Verjuice mixt together; or else an Onion, Water, and Pepper..."
Parkinson, Paradisi in Sole
"Garden Mustard ... The seede hereof grownd between two stones, fitted for the purpose, and called a Querne, with some good vinegar added unto it, to make it liquid and running, is that kinde of mustard that is usually made of all sorts, to serve as sauce both for fish and flesh." p. 502
|"Cuoco napolitano" 15th century.
Translation by Terence Scully
121. French Mustard: It is distempered with ony tart wine or must. This is the French Mustard, with neither head nor feet.
|From the Forme of Cury:
|Liber Cure Cocorum,
Copied and Edited from the Sloan MS. 1986
For lumbardus mustard
Credit http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/lcc/LCC32small.html and http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/lcc/LCC33small.html
|From the writings of Columella
first century AD:
Carefully cleanse and sieve mustard seed, then wash it well in cold water. Leave it in the water for two hours. Take it out, squeeze it in the hands, place it in a new or well-cleaned mortar, and grind it with pestles. Then collect the whole mass in the middle of the mortar and squeeze with the flat of the hand. Then scarify, place a few hot coals on it and pour on water mixed with nitre, to leach away all its bitterness and pallor. Lift up the mortar at once for all the liquid to drain away. Add pine kernels as fresh as possible and almonds; grind finely, adding sharp white wine vinegar, then strain. You will find this an excellent sauce for your dinner parties, and also attractive in appearance: if well made, it will be very brightly colored.
Cited in Dalby, Dangerous Tastes.
|From The Viandier of Taillevent (13th
century), translated by Terence Scully [Cameline
Take mustard, red wine, cinnamon powder and enough sugar, and let everything steep together. It should be thick like cinnamon. It is good for any roast.
Credit: The Viandier of Taillevent, edited by Terence Scully. (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1988)
From Scappi Cap CCLXXVI, folio 95,
Max Rumpolt, Ein New Kochbuch
10. Seudt Birn in süssem Most / thu sie auß auff ein saubers Bret/ vnd laß kalt warden / laß den Most weiter siden / biß er dick wirt / laß in darnach kalt warden / streichs mit braunem Senff durch / thu alsdenn die desotten Birn darein / so wirt es gut vnnd wolgeschmack. Wiltu aber ein guten Senff haben / so stoß Aniß vnnd Coriander durcheinander / streichs durch mit braunen Senffmehl / vnd süssen gesottenem Wein / so wirt es gut vnnd wolgeschmack.
10. Cook Pears in sweet cider syrup/ then put it off onto a clean Board / and let it become cold / let the cider syrup continue to boil / until it becomes thick / let it also become cold / press it through a sieve with brown Mustard / then also put in the Pears / so it will be good and well tasting. When you would have a good Mustard / so pound Anise and Coriander altogether / press it through a sieve with brown Mustard flour / and sweet boiled wine / so it will be good and well tasting.
Translation by Serena da Riva, used by permission
From Das Kuchbuch der Sabrina Welserin (1553): To make the mustard for dried cod
Take mustard powder, stir into it good wine and pear preserves and put sugar into it, as much as you feel is good, and make it as thick as you prefer to eat it, then it is a good mustard.
|From de Nola's Libro de
Coch (translated by Brighid)
153. Mustard (124) MOSTAZA
You must take mustard seed, and clean it of the dust and the soil and the stones, and grind it well in a mortar; and when it is ground, strain it through a cloth strainer; and then take the mustard powder and put it in a mortar with a crustless piece of bread soaked in meat broth, and grind it all together; and when it is well-ground, blend it with a little bit of lean broth without fat which is well-salted; and when it is blended in a good manner so that it is not too thin, take honey which is good, and melted on the fire, and cast it in the mortar and stir it well until it is well-mixed, and prepare dishes. Some cast a little vinegar in the broth; you can add peeled, toasted almonds, ground-up with the mustard.
154. French Mustard-- MOSTAZA FRANCESA
You must take a cantaro (125) of the must of wine, either red or white, and grind a dishful of mustard that is select and very good; and after straining it through a sieve or a sifter, grind with it, if you wish: a little cinnamon, and cloves, and ginger, and cast it all, very well-mixed in the mortar, into the cantaro or jar of wine; and with a cane stir it around a long while, so that it mixes with the must; and each day you must stir it with the cane seven or eight times; and you will boil the wine with this mustard; and when the wine has finished boiling, you can eat this mustard. And when you want to take it out to cast it in the dish to eat, first stir it with the cane a little; and this is very good mustard and it will keep all year.
155. Another Very Good French Mustard Which Lasts All Year-- OTRA MOSTAZA FRANCESA MUY BUENA Y DURA TODO EL AÑO
Take a caldron which will hold two cantaros, and fill it with red grapes and set it to cook upon the fire until it is reduced by half and there remains half a caldron which is one cantaro; and when the grapes are cooked, remove the scum with a wooden spoon; and stir it now and then with a stick; and strain this must through a clean cloth and cast it into a cantaro; and then cast in the mustard, which should be up to a dishful well-ground, little by little, stirring it with the stick. And each day you should stir with it, four or five times a day; and if you wish, you can grind with the mustard three parts cinnamon, two parts cloves, and one part ginger. This French mustard is very good and lasts all year and is mulberry-colored.
|Le Menagier De Paris:
MUSTARD. If you wish to provide for keeping
mustard a long time do it at wine-harvest in sweet must. And some say
that the must should be boiled. Item, if you want to make mustard
hastily in a village, grind some mustard-seed in a mortar and soak in
vinegar, and strain; and if you want to make it ready the sooner, put
it in a pot in front of the fire. Item, and if you
wish to make it properly and at leisure, put the mustard-seed to
soak overnight in good vinegar, then have it ground fine in a mill,
and then little by little moisten it with vinegar: and if you have
some spices left over from making jelly, broth, hypocras or sauces,
they may be ground up with it, and then leave it until it is ready.
(Redon's Medieval Kitchen gives a sample redaction of the first recipe and a discussion of mustards in general.)
|The 13th-c. Arabo-Andalusian _Manuscrito
anonimo_ gives the following recipe for "Sinab":
Clean good mustard and wash it with water several times, then dry it and pound it until it is like antimony [?]. Sift it with a sifter of hair, and then pound shelled almonds and put them with the mustard and stir them together. Then press out their oil and mash them with breadcrumbs little by little, not putting in the breadcrumbs all at once but only little by little. Then pour strong vinegar and eggs over this dough for the dish, having dissolved sufficient salt in the vinegar. Then dissolve it well to the desired point, and clarify it thoroughly with a clean cloth; and there are those who after it is clarified add a little honey to lessen its heat. Either way it is good.
|The Closet Opened (sir Kenelme Digbie, KT)
1669 To Make Mustard
The best way of making mustard is this: Take of the best mustard seed (which is black) for example a quart. Dry it gently in an oven, and beat it to subtle powder, and serse it. Then mingle well strong wine-vinegar with it, so much that it be pretty liquid, for it will dry with keeping. Put to this a little pepper, beaten small (white is the best) at discretion as about a good pugil and put a good spoonful of sugar to it (which is not to make it taste sweet, but rather, quick, and to help the fermentation) Lay a good onion in the bottom, quartered if you will, and a race (root) of ginger scraped and bruised, and stir it often with a Horseradish root cleansed, which let always lie in the pot till it hath lost its vertue, then take a new one. This will keep long, and grow better for a while. It is not good till after a month, that it have fermented a while. Some think it will be the quicker if the seed be ground with fair water, instead of vinegar, putting store of onions in it.
My Lady Holmsby make her quick fine mustard thus: Choose true mustard seed; dry it in an oven, after the bread is out. Beat and searce it to a most subtle powder. Mingle Sherry-Sack with it (stirring a long time very well, so much as to have it of a fit consistency for mustard) Then put a good quantity of fine sugar to it, as five or six spoonfuls, or more, to a pint of mustard. Stir and incorporate well together. This will keep good a long time. Some do like to put to it a little (but a little) of very sharp wine vinegar.
|From An Old Icelandic Medical Miscellany (
Harpestreng-manuscript, Icelandic version supposed to be 15th C., from
a lost manuscript of the 13 th C.)
One shall take mustard (seed) and add a fourth part of honey and grind all together with good vinegar. This is good for forty days.
One shall take mustard (seed) and a third of honey and a tenth part of anise and two such of cinnamon. Grind this all with strong vinegar and put it in a cask. This is good for three months.
|Epulario (1598), p. 32: To make mustard
which may be carried in Bals.
Beat the mustard seed as aforesaid*, then take grapes well stamped, adding thereto Sinamon and Cloves, then make what fashion bals you will round or square, and set them on a table to dry, and being dry, you may carry them whether you will. And when you will use them, temper them with a little veriuice, vinegar, sodden wine, or Bastard wine."
*"Take mustard seed & let it soke for the space of two daies, and change the water often, that it may be the whiter..."
From On Good Health and Right Pleasure -- Platina, translated by Milham
Prepared mustard: Add pounded almonds to pounded mustard, which has, however, been softened for two days in frequently changed water so that it has become whiter and milder, and grind again with softened bread crumbs. Then, when it has been soaked with verjuice or sharp vinegar, pass through a sieve into serving dishes. If you want it sweet, add sweet things; if sour, sour. Partly by nature, partly by the way it is made, it warms stomach and liver, reduces the spleen, and stimulates passion.
Red Mustard sauce: Grind in mortar or mill, either separately or all together, mustard, raisins, dates, toasted bread, and a little cinnamon. When it is ground, soak with verjuice or vinegar and a bit of must, and pass through a sieve into serving dishes. This heats less than the one above and stimulates the thirst but does not nourish badly.
Mustard sauce in bits: Mix mustard and
well-pounded raisins, a little cinnamon and cloves, and make little
balls or bits from this mixture. When they have dried on a board, carry
them with you wherever you want. When there is a need, soak in verjuice
or vinegar or must. This differs little in nature from those above.
|"Cuoco napolitano" 15th century.
Translation by Terence Scully
122. Italian Mustard: Get the seed which is called sinapop and steep it for a day or two, changing the water often; get balnched almonds and grind them up and put them with the mustard seed grinding it all togther; then get good must syrup to make it sweet, and for a tart taste use verjuice, and strain everything and make it thick. Add spices if you want it with spices.
123. Balled Mustard for Trips: Get mustard seed and when it has steeped a day, grind it up with a handful of raisins, cloves, cinnamon and a little pepper, and with this paste form balls, small or large as a walnut; then set to dry on a borad; when dry, you can take them when you go riding; to distemper them, use verjuice or must or wine or vinegar.
|John Evelyn A discourse of Sallets, 1699:
Take the mustard seed, and grind one and a half pints of it with honey, and Spanish oil, and make it into a liquid with vinegar......
To make mustard for the pot, slice some horse-radish, and lay it to soak in vinegar, squeezing it well, and add a lump of sugar and an onion chopt. Use vinegar from this mixture to mix the mustard.
???Czuo ainem gouten senff nem senffs??men und d??rr den suber und sto?? inn+denn
???For good mustard take mustard seed and dry it clean. Grind it very finely in a mortar and pass it through a fine cloth. [Grind?] cinnamon flower, add it to the mustard and stir it together with honey, just like wax. And whenever you want, take a little of this and rub it with wine; thus you have good gentle mustard???
Cgm 384 I #12 (second half 15th cent.); translation by Volker Bach
???Item zu guetem seniff Nym seniff samen, und seuber in und st???? in schon und reib in durch ain tuoch das enng sey, und sto?? zimen pl??e misch dar under und den seniff zwier mit hoenig samen unnder einander recht als ein muoss, und wenn du in wild machen, So nym ein wenig und twier in mit wein So hastu ainen guotn seniff???
???Also for good mustard take mustard seed and clean and grind it well. Pass it through a fine cloth. Grind cinnamon flower , mix it in and then mix the mustard twice (with twice the amount?) with honey, like porridge. When you wish to make some, take a little and mix it with with wine. Thus you will have good mustard???
Meister Hans #12 (1460); translation by Volker Bach
Anonimo Veneziano, Libro di cucina / Libro per cuoco (14th/15th c.)
XLII. Mustard and mustard good
The most basic constituent of mustard sauce is mustard seed. Both yellow 'white' mustard (Sinapia Alba) and black mustard were used in period. There appears to be a slight preference for black mustard seed, unless a white-ish sauce was wanted. Brown mustard is mentioned occasionally. Brown mustard seeds are much easier to obtain from modern suppliers (try Indian groceries) than black mustard; it is milder than yellow mustard but has a better taste. (Brown mustard is grown more often nowadays than black mustard because it is easier to harvest by machine.) Modern mustard fanciers can choose between ground yellow mustard 'flour', yellow mustard seeds and brown mustard seeds. Be cautious with the ground mustard flour; it seems to be 'hotter' than ground seeds are! Also, though brown mustard seeds are supposed to be spicier, I've found them more mellow.
Most period mustard sauces also call for mixing the ground seeds with some product of the grape, if not more than one: wine must (crushed grapes) was the most popular, but wine, vinegar, verjuice and even raisins were added on occasion.The yellow seeds were sometimes soaked in water before or after grinding, to make the result 'whiter'. Modern mustards branch out into using beer, ale, or different vinegars.
Honey sweetened mustards seem to be associated with Lombardy, but there are plenty of recipes calling for sweeteners, including honey, sugar, and ground dates or raisins. Oil in mustard sauce seems to be a postperiod development, as the first reference I've found is John Evelyn, though C. Anne Wilson says oil was used in Roman mustards. Platina explicitly leaves the choice to the cook: "If you want it sweet, add sweet things; if sour, sour. "
A wide variety of spices were used, and several notations indicate
that the exact spice combination may have varied not just from cook to
cook but from batch to batch of mustard. Certainly, Le Menagier's
thrifty advice to add spices left over from making sauce (does he mean
before the sauce is mixed, or what has been strained out when the sauce
was sieved?) would result in the use of a wide and differing selection
of spices. Cinnamon, ginger, cloves and pepper are among the most
Heated mustards tend to mellow more quickly, but heating the sauce can also increase the bitterness.
Some mustards were eaten right away, others were aged; some were even 'fermented' as Digby's (below) was. Because of the changes in the flavor related to the release of the essential oils of mustard (so sharp they were used to produce the bioweapon 'mustard gas' in WWI), the flavor and sharpness of the mustard changes over time. Mustard to which no acid (such as vinegar, verjuice, or wine) has been added, fades sooner than that with acid. However, the nature of the acid can vary the aging time: a mustard I made with red wine was not ready to eat for 4 or 5 months, and Nicollo's redaction of Platina's Red Mustard needs to sit for quite some weeks before serving. Fresh mustards, especially if pepper, ginger and/or cloves are included, can supply quite as much 'hot' to the medieval diet as capsicum peppers do to the modern one!
Many mustards need to age from 2 days to 6 weeks. Testing over time
will tell you how you like it best. In some cases, mustard sauces that
have sat for too long, may well need to be 'sharpened up' with a little
mustard powder. (Note: refrigerating your mustard will keep its sharpness; leaving it out on a counter will help it mellow.)
There are several recipes for 'pre-made' mustards, little balls or thick pastes to which the user adds vinegar or other liquid to make the right consistency of mustard. Mustard sauces in period may have been less thick than the specialty mustards we are accustomed to; the phrase 'running' or 'thin' is often applied to mustard prepared for serving.
Some of the mustard sauces are boiled, also. Modern herbalists note that heating/cooking mustard may cause it to get bitter if it is cooked too long.
Several sources mention peppermills, handmills or querns used for the purpose of grinding mustard. We can use a mortar and pestle, peppermill, flour grinder, coffee grinder, etc. for grinding spices. Food processors and blenders seem to have too large a capacity to do a good job on squishing the seeds, though they can be used to get a smoother consistency in the finished product.
Mortars with a roughened inside, and heavy, roughened pestles seem to work best; also, if the mortar curves inward at the top, you get less 'splatter'. You only want to grind a small amount at a time; trial and error will show you the best quantity to use in a given set.
Coffee grinders can be a wonderful convenience for grinding medium quantities of spices and herbs at one time. Be sure to KEEP THE LID CLOSED until all motion has ceased -- powdered mustard continues to move a bit longer than ground coffee.
When grinding, be sure not to get mustard powder in your eyes, nose, or other mucous membranes; it really, really hurts!
Obviously, you need a bowl to mix in, spoons and things to mix with, measuring spoons if you measure, and containers to put it in! Mustard should be kept in a sealed container of some sort; refrigeration (except under Pennsic like conditions) is probably optional if you have enough acid in the mix. Exposure to air dulls the mustard oil, (which is why period mustard pots had small mouths). If you are going to cook the sauce, you'll need a pan to do that in (a non-reactive one is best).
Pear Mustard from Welserin, by Brandu (Jeff Gedney)What I wound up doing:
-- I had no ready source for pear preserves, so I did something I have done in the past to great effect...
Here is a caveat, the more you agitate this the hotter the mustard gets. if you prefer a milder sauce use less mustard, and stir it by hand. I wanted something tasty and sweet that would clear the sinuses, I had a pork roast coming, and this sauce not only would ideally "balance the humors", the flavors would really compliment.