Tasters crown the best mustards for your Independence Day dogs

Thursday, June 29th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Mustard makes no apologies.

More than a foil for hot dogs, the none-too-shy condiment is a welcome slap up-side the head.

"A good mustard is something you should feel in your nose," says Barry Levenson, a collector who opened the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum in 1992. "Your nose should twitch a little bit with a good mustard.

"There are exceptions to that," he adds. "But I want to know I'm eating mustard, not mayonnaise."

And while there's nothing wrong with old reliable French's, it's like clinging to M&Ms in a Callebaut and Valrhona world.

The Mount Horeb Mustard Museum in Wisconsin, to prove the point, houses 3,400 varieties from around the world - from Lakeshore Tipperary Pub Mustard to Singing Pig Wine-Garlic Mustard.

"When you're having it on a hot dog, it's more personal," Mr. Levenson says. "I like a mustard with some texture that's going to stand up to that hot dog. You need a little bit of a fight going on."

Come July 4th, mustard will duke it out with 155 million hot dogs, the number the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council expects Americans to consume on the biggest hot dog holiday of the year.

Mr. Levenson will be ready. His wife, Patti, explains that he has "an MD from Poupon U, department of condimentology." Hence, his nickname: Dr. Mustard.

The Levensons run the museum and a mail-order business, which sells everything from mustards to "Poupon U" paraphernalia.

Earlier this year, 300 mustards representing seven countries competed at the slightly more serious Napa Valley (Calif.) Mustard Festival, which Mr. Levenson helped organize.

The 14 categories distinguished Sweet Hot from Honey Mustard, Classic Hot from Pepper-Hot, American Yellow from Deli-Brown.

The overall winner was a surprise: newcomer Food & Wine Sweet Hot Beer Mustard, made by Haus Barhyte for Food & Wine, the magazine. But grocery-store brands such as Grey Poupon and Maille Dijon also crowded the ranks, along with gourmet names such as Robert Rothschild and Terrapin Ridge.

They're part of a rising mustard tide: Sales in 1999 were more than $300 million, a 10.6 percent increase over five years, reports A.C. Nielsen.

The surprisingly complex condiment starts with a simple formula.

All prepared mustards are fundamentally made the same way, reports Food Lover's Companion (Barron's, 1995). Finely ground mustard seed (also called mustard powder, dry mustard or mustard flour) is mixed with seasonings and a liquid, such as water, wine, beer, vinegar or grape juice. Coarse or grainy mustards retain the hull and bran of the seeds.

The mustard plant is the same one that produces mustard greens, and the tiny yellow flowers are ubiquitous in Napa Valley. Mustard grows between rows of grapevines in the vineyards variously as ground cover, to attract good insects and for its beauty, says a spokesperson for the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, Calif. Hence, the Napa Valley Mustard Festival.

Food Lover's goes on to say that there are essentially three styles of prepared mustard. American-style, made with less-pungent white or yellow mustard seeds and flavored with vinegar and sugar; these get their yellow color from the addition of turmeric. Mustards that kick and bite, such as Chinese and European mustards, generally start with brown seeds. Barring an addition like jalapeños, Chinese mustards are usually hottest.

But understand that froufrou mustards like apricot-ginger or chardonnay-herb aren't part of today's lesson. We're talking one segment of the mustard universe: mustard for hot dogs. Just hot dogs. OK, hot dogs and brats.

Champion mustards

Here are the results of the Napa Valley Mustard Festival, which were announced in the spring. Mustards that are not available locally may be purchased from the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum. The Web site is www.mustardmuseum.com, or you can call 1-800-438-6878 for a catalog.

Food & Wine Sweet Hot Beer Mustard, Haus Barhyte

Gold: Napa Valley Sweet Hot Mustard, Beaverton Foods
Silver: Inglehoffer Sweet Hot Mustard, Beaverton Foods
Bronze: Haus Barhyte Sweet Hot Stone Ground

Gold: Robert Rothschild Raspberry Honey Mustard
Silver: Provincial Palate Honey Crunch Mustard
Bronze: Woeber Supreme Honey Mustard

Gold: Delouis Fils Dijon Mustard
Silver: Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard
Bronze: Maille Dijon Mustard

Gold: Plochman's Natural Stone Ground Mustard
Silver: Tracklement's Organic Mustard With Honey
Bronze: Maille Old Style Mustard

Gold: Minokyu's Old Style Mustard
Silver: Beaver Olde English Mustard, Beaverton Foods
Bronze: Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard

Gold: California Harvest Chipotle Lime With Roasted Garlic Mustard, Grapevine Trading Co.
Silver: Mrs. McGarrigle's Chipotle Lime Mustard
Bronze: East Shore Chipotle With Jalapeno Dipping Mustard

Gold: Plochman's Zesty Horseradish Mustard
Silver: Plochman's Spicy Horseradish Mustard
Bronze: Woeber Horseradish Mustard

Gold: Winter Garden Mustard, Raye's Mustard Mill
Silver: Grey Poupon Spicy Brown Mustard
Bronze: Inglehoffer Creamy Dill Mustard, Beaverton Foods

Gold: Sebastiani Cask Chardonnay Garlic Mustard, Leslie B. Fay
Silver: Tracklement's Garlic & Chive Mustard
Bronze: Chalif Grainy Garlic Mustard, Morehouse Foods

Gold: Wisconsin Wilderness Cranberry Mustard
Silver: Robert Rothschild Apricot Ginger Mustard
Bronze: Robert Rothschild Pineapple Mustard Dip

Gold: Food & Wine Sweet Hot Beer Mustard, Haus Barhyte
Silver: Sarepta Beer Mustard
Bronze: Beaverton Old Spice Dijon Grainy With Wine & Basil

Gold: Plochman's Mild Yellow Mustard
Silver: Morehouse Yellow Mustard
Bronze: Down East Schooner Mustard, Raye's Mustard Mill

Gold: Morehouse Deli Mustard
Silver: Uncle Phil's Gourmet Spicy Brown Mustard, Wisconsin Spice Inc.
Bronze: Inglehoffer Deli Mustard, Beaverton Foods

Gold: Terrapin Ridge Thai Curry & Basil Mustard
Silver: Napa Valley Orange & Ginger Mustard, Beaverton Foods
Bronze: California Harvest Green Olive & Lemon Mustard With Roasted Garlic, Grapevine Trading Co.

Make your own mustard

Sweet-Hot Mustard
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
3 drops Tabasco or other pepper sauce

Combine onion, garlic and wine in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Strain into dry mustard. Add remaining ingredients. Cook over low heat until smooth and thick. Makes about 2 cups.
Source: www.mustardstore.com

Beer Mustard

1 cup mustard powder (see note)
2/3 cup strong-flavored beer or ale
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup minced dried peaches or apricots
1 tablespoon minced candied ginger

Mix together the mustard powder and beer. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Spoon the mustard into clean jars and cap them; refrigerate. Keeps several months in the refrigerator. Makes 3 cups.

Note: Dry mustard, mustard powder and mustard flour are all the same thing.

Source: "The Art of Accompaniment"

Creole Mustard

1 cup yellow mustard seeds (see note)
1 cup dry white wine
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch nutmeg or mace
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
2 tablespoons malt vinegar

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the mustard seeds. Cook, uncovered, until the seeds begin to pop, about 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat and cover with a kitchen towel until the popping stops and the seeds cool, about 5 minutes. Grind the seeds in a mortar and pestle. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, place the seeds between two sheets of wax paper and crush with a rolling pin.

Meanwhile, wash and sterilize 3 (1-cup) jars and lids; set aside.

Combine the wine, garlic, celery seeds, allspice, salt, cloves and nutmeg in a small heavy saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove pan from heat and allow to sit, uncovered, for 2 hours.

In a large bowl, mix the ground mustard seeds and vinegars until you have a smooth paste. Return the pot with the wine infusion to a boil over high heat. Once again, remove from heat; strain through a fine sieve into bowl with mustard paste. Mix well, stirring constantly. Pour the mustard into the jars; adjust lids. "Age" in refrigerator for 3 weeks before using.

Note: Yellow mustard seeds are available in the spice racks of most grocery stores. They're 19 cents an ounce at Whole Foods Market. Or, you can order yellow or brown seeds from the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum at www.mustardmuseum.com or call for a catalog at 1-800-438-6878. Another online source: www.mustardstore.com.

Source: "Creole Flavors"