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Æchter Senf

As a native German, I'm born with the genetic predisposition to love Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, and Kartoffelsalat. However, I insist that the Bratwurst, regardless of its provenience, is served with Mustard, and not just any one. Unfortunately, the standard mustard in Germany (“mittelscharfer Senf”) is a feculent substance that sickens me even if I only think about it. It tastes just like one would imagine a vinegar-salt-sugar paste with a homeopathic dose of mustard powder would taste: disgusting.

What I expect from mustard is really very simple: it should taste of mustard (and not exclusively of vinegar) and has the effect of mustard, i.e., I want to experience the familiar nose-tingling sensation one also knows from horseradish or wasabi. And that's to be expected, because all these condiments contain C4H5NS (3-Isothiocyanato-1-propene) or allyl isothiocyanate.

Wasabi has probably the highest C4H5NS content among the brassicaceae plants, and it was in fact in Japan where I discovered my love for the effect this substance has on the “mucous membranes of the sinuses”, as medically oriented people would put it. I've been invited several times to high-end sushi places in which wasabi was freshly prepared right at the dining table using a shark-skin oroshigane. I'm not too fond of sushi in general, but tekkamaki and unakyumaki are absolutely delicious when served with a proper amount of fresh wasabi.

And I soon found that the Japanese are serious mustard aficionados as well. Karashi, for example, is just plain brown mustard powder mixed with water and is served with many popular dishes, for example oden. Sausages are also highly popular and are usually consumed with a variety of excellent mustards available at any 7-11.

And then I returned to Germany just to discover that we live in a culinary desert. We have great sausages, oh yes, but where's the mustard of equivalent quality? A regular super market offers a dozen different varieties of “mittelscharfer Senf” (all tasting exactly the same), one sweet Bavarian variant (sugar paste with one or two mustard seeds), and two or three Dijon type mustards such as Löwensenf and Maille Dijon Originale. The latter ones are the least despicable, but I'm still not satisfied with their effect on my nose.

But who cares what the local market offers, this is the age of online shopping! Right?

Well, I order a lot of my food in the internet, and consequently also tried various offers I found online. Einbecker produces mustard with excellent taste, just as my favorite chili shop. I've set my hope in the latter as there were rumours in the forum that Michael Dietz, the founder of Chili Food, planned to create a truly hot mustard. In the end, it turned out to be just another of the so-called hot mustards that are simply pimped with chili.

But chili and mustard are two totally different beasts. As stated above, the desirable effect of mustard relies on the presence of allyl isothiocyanate. Chili, in contrast, is powered by C18H27NO3 [(6E)-N-[(4-Hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)methyl]-8-methylnon-6-enamide] or capsaicin. Their effect is not only different: actually, it is entirely distinct. I don't understand why it seems to be increasingly popular to simulate the former with the latter. Imagine the opposite: somebody asking for Tabasco getting a pouch of Löwensenf.

In my desperation, I've even ordered Karashi and Colman's via Amazon. But come on: besides the obscene price tag, I really do not want to depend on a US internet retailer for a satisfactory Thüringer experience.

And then I found ECHTER LOOSER SENF and began to see the light. Hell, yes, why should I not produce my own mustard? How difficult can it be?

As it turned out, it's about as difficult as making a coffee. I've chosen this comparison as we have to grind the mustard seeds, which can be done with a mill or a mortar. Talking of mustard seeds: that's of course the central ingredient for a mustard. ;) Since I aimed to get a really, genuinely, absolutely hot one, brown mustard seeds were required that can be obtained from specialized spice shops such as this one. A plain hot mustard can then be obtained with only a few more basic ingredients. Prior to its preparation, however, it's important to realize that a mustard has to be enjoyed when fresh. Certainly, one can keep it for months and perhaps even years and it never gets “bad” in a microbiological sense. But after a few days the bite of it is gone! So put your freshly prepared mustard in the fridge and wait overnight to let it mellow, but don't keep it longer than a week.

With that in mind, I recommend to prepare only a minute amount sufficient for just one or two meals:

Brown mustard seeds:                    25 g
Water:                                  30 ml
Wine:                                   5 (10) ml
Vinegar:                                15 (10) ml
Salt:                                   1.5 g
Sugar:                                  0.15 g

Grind the seeds in a mill or mortar (I recommend the latter). Mix water, vinegar and wine with salt and sugar. Pour the mixture over the mustard powder and stir carefully. Put in fridge for one night but let it warm to room temperature before digestion. Let me add that the choice of wine and vinegar is important, as these two ingredients are largely responsible for the character of our mustard. This fact is also the reason why I allowed for some flexibility in their relative amounts.

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