Mustard has long been my mother’s Christmas gift of choice, especially for family. I’ve been an appreciator, but never a participant in the process. But suddenly, this year, I found myself in the middle of holiday chaos – New family! Extra gifts needed! So much to do and so little time and money! And my mother said “Why don’t you make mustard with me?” And a new tradition was born.
The tradition of my mother and I driving each other crazy in the kitchen for a few hours, at what is already a touchy time of year, and wondering why we agreed to do this together, anyway. But we survived, and for some reason we’ve decided to do it again next year, with more variety, so it must have been a successful mission. I’m still too close to the memory to really let go of the trauma… (Just kidding, mom.)
The process is surprisingly simple, although it’s not actually as inexpensive a gift as you might think. The key essential ingredient is Coleman’s Mustard powder, which is readily available in grocery stores for approximately $7 per 6 ounce tin. (The tins also make great little gift boxes, though, so you can really get your money’s worth by using every part.) So the mustard powder is expensive, and the canning jars (I just use Ball) are pretty expensive (~$10 for 12 8-oz jars), but other than that, it’s just apple cider vinegar, eggs, and sugar, all of which are easy and affordable.
For one batch (which makes about 2 1/2 8-oz jars of mustard), combine one tin of mustard with one cup of vinegar. The mustard and vinegar have to sit overnight, so this isn’t the kind of thing where you can just spontaneously decide to make mustard one morning, but if you have your act together and can remember to start it the night before, then it’s basically just a bunch of stirring. Take out the chilled mustard/vinegar paste and whisk with 1 cup sugar and two eggs. Whisk until smooth, then pour into a saucepan over very low heat. You’ll want to keep it high enough that it will just barely bubble, but not burn or cook the bottom.
Now’s the part where mom and I ran into trouble. I was trying to record this for posterity, so I kept asking, but apparently there’s no answer. You cook this stuff until it’s done. Seriously. What does that mean? Well, our first batch (6x the recipe) took a little over 2 hours, stirring every 10-15 minutes. My second batch (3x the recipe) took about 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 8-10 minutes. You basically stir until it starts to thicken, and then arbitrarily decide when it’s as thick as you want it to.
When mine got to a point where I thought it was ready, I spooned a tiny bit into a ramekin and stuck it in the fridge for about 10 minutes to see what it was like after it chilled. For me, when you can tilt the ramekin on one side and the mustard doesn’t run out, it just sort of … leans, then it’s ready. If you like runnier mustard, don’t cook it quite as long.
For my first try, I think these came out really well. And it’s delicious mustard. A bit spicy for my taste on its own, but almost honey tasting, so it’s perfect for sandwiches for those of us with lower spice tolerance. Next year I think I’m going to try a different kind of mustard powder, maybe something that comes in bulk, and see if it really does come out totally inferior the way my mother promises. I’m also planning on making different varieties of mustard, and maybe some pepper jelly (another of my mother’s traditions, although one that died off in recent years). Oh what the coming years could bring!