5 Peppercorn Mustard Recipe and Pungency

I never thought much of mustard until I was researching Fleur d'olive brand mustard for my job (Cool, right?). I grew up on French's; nothing wrong with that. Due to this, I never cared for any kind of specialty mustards. I even found Dijon pretty gross - especially grainy. These mustards really peaked my intrigue though. With added flavours - fig, hibiscus, porcini, grape, curry, honey, five peppercorns and more - I just knew I had to make my own.

So really, mustard can be made with anything added (Roman mustard was traditionally made with ground almonds and pine nuts), along with mustard seeds and powder. It's things like this which make my job entirely too convenient. At the end of the day I walked in the back and picked up some 5 peppercorn mix, mustard powder and mustard seeds. I chose brown mustard seeds for an added kick and neater look with the peppercorns and I was on my way to making something wonderful!

5 Peppercorn Mustard

6 Tbsp brown mustard seeds

½ cup mustard powder

2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp five peppercorn mix

½ cup water, warm

3 Tbsp white vinegar**

  • >Combine dry ingredients.
  • Stir in wet ingredients.
  • Let sit for several days.

It will be very runny at first but don't worry because it will thicken up.

If it is too pungent after several days, cook over a double boiler until to your liking.

**Any vinegar will do – try sherry, balsamic, white wine, red wine, white balsamic, anything!

When I first made this mustard, it was completely inedible. Mustard seeds and powder are not a pungent flavour when dry but when ground and mixed with a liquid, their flavor can develop right away. Mustard with an acidic liquid (in this case white vinegar but any vinegar will do for different tastes) slows the later pungent compounds as it reacts with oxygen and other ingredients in the mustard resulting in, over time, a less intense flavor.

Although it was better, even after letting the mustard sit for a week, it was still too strong. The flavors become more mild when they're heated or cooked. Cooking the mustard will modify the pungent molecules and reduce the flavour. If this recipe is too strong for you, it would be okay to cook it down in a double boiler until it is to your taste. Also remember to always add mustard and pepper at the very end of a recipe.

The pungent flavour in mustard - as well as hot peppers, ginger, horseradish and peppercorns - does something very interesting to a human's brain, which is explained by psychologist Paul Rozin. He became attracted to chilli peppers and went on to determine why people enjoy eating spicy foods. Chillis have a chemical which counteracts bacteria that causes stomach ulcers. They are also high in vitamin A and C but he was still not convinced these were good enough reasons to eat something which, potentially, puts one in pain. He continued in search of why people enjoy something so irritating.

He determined that the irritation one gets from eating pungent flavors (like capsaicin) is similar to that of riding a roller coaster or other thrill seeking behavior. Eating a chilli is not dangerous but the pungency (irritant) in it signals to the brain that it is. As one knows they are not in any real danger, they ignore the dangerous side of it and enjoy the shock and pain for their own sake. The brain may also release a pain relieving chemical which leaves a pleasant feeling after the burning fades.

Humans are the only mammal that enjoy eating foods with high levels of capsaicin. Could you picture a dog or cat on a roller coaster? However, birds tend to eat chillis as their receptors are insensitive to capsaicin and they are are immune to the pungency of it. Some commercial bird feeds have added chilli seeds to ward off squirrels and other unwanted mammals. Birds can be attributed to why chilli seeds are so widespread.

***TIP: On an overdose of a pungent flavour, breathe out through the mouth-sparing nasal passages-and breathe in through the nose, to avoid drawing irritants from the mouth to the lungs. You'll feel better soon...