FAIRBANKS — Why make your own mustard? After all, the basic yellow and Dijon varieties are cheap, readily available and most don’t contain any scary additives. There are two reasons I make it from scratch. First, I like unusual flavors and those are not easy to find nor cheap, especially when you use them in large quantities to make dishes such as a mustard encrusted roast. Second, homemade varieties taste fresher.

Mustard has long been a part of Western cooking. Unlike many spices, which could only be grown in hotter climates, mustard could be successfully cultivated in the cooler temperatures and shorter growing seasons of Europe. Cheap and readily available, it was so important that some Medieval (meaning from roughly the late 400s to the mid-1400s) estates had a “mustardarius” who was in charge of the process from planting the crop to turning it into a condiment. By the 1350s, a mustard business had been established in Dijon, France; the 1500s saw the production of the first British commercial mustard.

Today, there are three varieties of mustard grown for its seed (instead of for their greens): yellow (which can be as pale as white), brown (which can be reddish to brown) and black. The first two are the ones generally used in making mustards; the black seeds are harder to harvest so are prohibitively expensive. You can also buy ground seeds in the form of mild, hot, dry or powered mustard.

Seeds at the grocery store come in tiny quantities and are hideously expensive. I use them not just for mustards but also for canning pickles and relishes, so I buy in bulk through Amazon.com, thespicehouse.com or penzeys.com. Usually a friend and I share an order, which makes it even cheaper.

When I am out of mustard and suddenly realize I need it, I use my herb mill (which is really a recycled coffee grinder) to pulverize some seeds. To the resulting powder I add some wine, beer or vinegar until I reach a consistency I like. A little salt and it is good to go. If I want it very smooth and with bite, say to use as a dipping sauce for eggrolls, I pull out a can of powdered mustard. A little sugar, a little salt and enough wine or water to make it dipping consistency, and I am all set.

However, I use these two recipes only when I am desperate, because the lack of aging means there are none of the subtle flavors that only emerge with time. Generally, I follow the first recipe in the sidebar. The ways to dress up this basic mustard are unlimited. Just before serving, add grated horseradish, tomato paste, or raw or roasted garlic. If you like sweet and savory mixed, add some mashed fruit or sweet relish.

For two more recipes, as well as canning directions, look up this food blog: http://www.foodinjars.com/2011/08/guest-post-an-introduction-to-homemade-mustard-from-kaela-porter-of-local-kitchen/

Basic Grainy Mustard

Ingredients:

1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds

1/4 cup brown mustard seeds

1/3 cup red wine or beer or water

1/4 cup vinegar

Pinch of salt

Pinch of sugar

Preparation:

Mix all the ingredients in a non-reactive container. (I use one of my canning jars and lids.) Shake it up and leave it out for 24 to 48 hours. At the end of the soaking period, put everything into a blender and grind it to the consistency you desire. Pour it back into the container and store in your fridge for a few days before using; it will keep for months. Don’t worry, the taste will mellow and the mixture will thicken. If it is too runny for you even after a few days, next time decrease the amount of wine.

The following three recipes are reprinted courtesy of Darrell Freeman and his blog, docaitta.com. You will find many more mustards, as well as recipes for cooking with mustard, on his blog.

Rustic Cognac Mustard

Ingredients:

1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds

1/4 cup brown mustard seeds

1/2 cup cognac

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons mustard powder

1 tablespoon brown sugar or maple syrup

1/4 cup white vinegar

3/4 teaspoons sea salt

Preparation:

Place the seeds in a small jar with a cover. Pour the cognac and water into the jar with the seeds. Shake and then let sit undisturbed for 24 to 48 hours. Places the seeds and soaking liquid in a blender or food processor, with the mustard powder, brown sugar or maple syrup, vinegar and sea salt. Process to a paste consistency.

Put in a glass jar and cover for about four days before serving.

Homemade Dijon Mustard

Ingredients:

2 cups dry white wine

1 cup minced onion

2 cloves minced garlic

2 tablespoons honey

4 ounces dry yellow mustard

1 tablespoon oil

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

Preparation:

In a small saucepan, heat garlic, wine and onion, bringing to a boil. Then simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Set aside in a bowl for 10 minutes. Add the dry mustard into a saucepan and slowly strain the heated wine mixture over the top to remove the solids. Whisk until smooth, removing any lumps. Add honey, salt and Tabasco. Place over medium heat and sire until the mixture thickens. It will set up more as it cools. Remove from heat, cool and refrigerate in a glass or plastic jar.

Yellow Hot Dog Mustard

Ingredients:

1 cup ground mustard

1 cup water

3/4 cup white vinegar

1 teaspoon flour

2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients except for the cayenne and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Whisk until smooth and then bring to a boil. Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat to medium and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Taste for spiciness.

Pour the mustard into a food processor. Add as much cayenne as you want, and the lemon juice. Puree for 2 minutes. If the mustard appears a little grainy, it will smooth out while sitting in the fridge, and will thicken. Place in jars and refrigerate.

Linden Staciokas is a freelance writer. Contact her

at dorking@acsalaska.net.