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Think of mustard and Dijon springs to mind. This
condiment is an essential addition to succulent roast beef, bacon and
ham not to mention sausages, burgers and hot dogs. It makes excellent
sauces too, acting as a thickening agent.
Dijon mustard, unlike English mustard, is suitable for coeliacs, who have a gluten intolerance.
The first reference to mustard in Burgundy was in 1336 when a banquet was given for the king of France, Philip VI. Records show that 66 gallons of mustard were consumed!
All the ingredients were available locally: mustard seed from the Saône valley, vinegar from the wine producers and salt from the Jura mountains. But it wasn't until 1756 when Jean Naigeon, a Dijon mustard maker, substituted verjuice for vinegar, that Dijon mustard developed its own flavour and reputation. Verjuice comes from grapes which are still green at harvest time. The result was a less acidic and smoother tasting mustard. Local people would bring their mustard pots to be filled each day and the pretty hand painted pots evolved, still available for sale in Dijon today.
To make mustard, seeds of the Brassica family are pressed and steeped in verjuice, or in slightly fermented white wine. The mixture is then crushed to a paste, or for a coarser version, the seeds are left in. Dijon mustard contains black mustard seeds which are the strongest and most expensive.
Mustard seed is imported
mainly from Canada, also the USA and Hungary. Now, moves are underway to increase the mustard seed crop in Burgundy. "In 1996, only 250 hectares were devoted to mustard in Burgundy, with 35 producers; in 2010, cultivation reached 5,000 hectares and 297 farmers are involved," said Yves Charpiot, director of the Regional Chamber of Agriculture in the region. "Farmers abandoned the cultivation of mustard seed in the aftermath of World War II because it was not subsidized, unlike other crops such as rapeseed or wheat, "said Marc Désarménien, head of Fallot Mustard in Beaune.
In Dijon, visit the Amora-Maille shop, 32 Rue de la Liberté
dating back to 1845. Here there are endless varieties of mustard, pretty
pots, vinegars and oils for sale.
See also: Our Chef's Recipes