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dijon Mustard

Dijon Mustard

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.

Whole grain mustard is a classic but there are many varieties now available from tarragon to cassis, herb to green pepper. An essential ingredient of vinaigrette for salads, Dijon mustard is also used in many Burgundian recipes. Note: always add toward the end of the cooking or it will turn bitter.

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 5,500 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 in Beaune.

By producing the seed locally, a tight control can be kept on quality and improvements made to the genetic properties to ensure that mustard from Burgundy lives up to its reputation. 50% of European production about 90,000 tons of mustard paste produced annually comes from Burgundy - 85% of France's total output.

What is the difference between Moutarde de Bourgogne, Burgundy mustard, and that of Dijon? Burgundy mustard is stronger, Dijon mustard is gentler and a slightly lighter yellow in colour. The difference lies in the provenance of the mustard seed. Only seeds grown in the Burgundy region are used in the manufacture of Moutarde de Bourgogne whereas Dijon mustard uses nearly 50% seeds from Canada, and the other half from Burgundy.

Fallot mustard with walnutsIn 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.

In Beaune the independent family-owned business Fallot offers a variety of flavoured mustards including their latest addition with walnuts from Périgord. Museum visits are available at 31 Faubourg Bretonnière from mid March to mid November.

See also: Our Chef's Recipes