A common ingredient used in witchcraft recipes to make potions and elixirs was the eye of newt. This ancient ingredient was not actual newt eyeballs but a spice commonly known as a ground mustard seed.
Mustard plants grow in a bush that can develop into a tree that can reach 2 to 7 meters in height. Centuries ago, mustard was harvested by hand using a scythe to cut down the bushes. A dull scythe would not cut the mustard, and the idiomatic phrase was born.
Today, Canada is the largest global producer of mustard, producing some 300,000 tonnes of seed annually.
The three types of mustard seed grown in western Canada are mainly destined to the condiment market:
Yellow mustard is primarily grown for the North American food processing and condiment industry. In contrast, the brown mustard variety is grown for European markets for specialty mustards such as Dijon mustard.
Oriental mustard is produced for the Japanese market to be processed into a condiment or pressed for spicy cooking oil.
The mustard plant is entirely edible, but it is praised chiefly for the tiny seeds it produces, which are the spice that only release their heat once ground or cracked and exposed to liquid, causing a reaction that results in the spicy hot taste of prepared mustard condiments.
Adding vinegar or another acid like beer or wine to a prepared mustard condiment preserves the spiciness, which otherwise would become bland over time.
Freshly prepared mustard can be pretty offensive to the palate as it is bitter and needs to age to mellow its flavor. The longer mustard is aged, the better the taste.
The following recipe uses a mix of whole and powdered mustard to give it a desirable texture. It doesn’t call for a specific type of mustard seed as you can decide which to use, knowing that the darker the mustard seed, the spicier it will taste.
Also, be aware that using cold liquid ingredients will result in a hotter taste than if you do it with warm liquid.
So, if you prefer your mustard hot, use black mustard seeds and cold liquid. For a milder flavor, stick to yellow mustard seeds and use warm liquid or any combination that you feel like of seeds and temperatures.
It is also crucial that you let the finished mustard age for at least a week before using it to allow the bitterness to subside.
Eye of Newt Ground Mustard
2 tbsp. whole mustard seeds
1/4 cup ground mustard seed powder
1/4 cup water
5 tsp. Cider or malt vinegar
½ tsp. salt
Grate the seeds in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle until they are coarsely ground but not reduced to powder.
Mix all of the dehydrated ingredients in a non-reactive bowl before stirring in the wet ingredients.
This will produce a very watery mixture that will thicken while the mustard ages allowing the dried mustard seeds to rehydrate and absorbing all of the excess liquid.
Transfer the mustard mixture to a glass jar and let it stand at room temperature for a couple of days before placing the mustard in the fridge to age for another 3 to 5 days before using.
Mustard will keep in the refrigerator for 4-6 months.