Why Mustard Seeds are Spicy

Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I’m taking with me when I go.

– Erma Bombeck

Mustard seeds are spices and they are spicy. Why are some mustards are very spicy and others are not at all so?

Different varieties of mustard seeds have varying degrees of spiciness to them. In general, the darker the mustard seed, the spicier they are. When they seeds are broken and mixed with liquid, such as water or wine, the molecules inside mix with water, and specifically two of them, myrosin and sinigrin will cause a chemical reaction with the liquid, giving out heat. This is what gives the pungency, making the spiciness go up your nose and sort of around your head.

Then how come some industrial mustards aren’t spicy at all? The non spicy mustards have other added ingredients, such as flour, that counteract the heating producing reaction.

As for my first homemade mustard, I won’t publish the recipe. I’m conscious of the fact that it looks like a jar of solid vomit – I mean, just look at that photo. That alone must be a good enough reason for not publishing it. Other than that, the first time I tasted it, which was just 24 hours after making it, oh boy was it gross! Thankfully I didn’t throw it out and just let it sit in my fridge for another few days. This maturing period went well and it’s edible and nice now. Nevertheless, I have to admit that it is at it’s best when I mix it with honey and other ingredients to make honey and mustard type sauces… Trial and error. Our best lessons are learned from our mistakes. Let’s see how my next mustard will turn out.

35 Comments

  1. Saskia (1=2) 2015-01-09 at 22:01

    Actually, I reckon that photo looks pretty damn good Sofia! Well done – I’ve honestly never considered making mustard before, and loved reading this post with the scientific info. Honey mustard is one of my favorites (stirred through poached chicken, green beans and pine nut salad), so your experimenting sounds great to me 🙂
    Love Erma’s quote. I have some positively vintage spices in my cupboard.
    PS. Have you seen ‪Michael McIntyre’s routine on spices‬? It’s SO funny: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvi0ZLEHj3A

    Reply
    1. Sofia 2015-01-10 at 00:56

      Aww thanks Saskia 🙂 Honey and mustard (on virtually anything supposedly savoury) is a favourite of mine too. You have vintage spices? Which ones?
      Thanks for the link, am listening and chuckling over it now 🙂

      Reply
      1. Saskia (1=2) 2015-01-10 at 05:07

        I have dried tarragon leaves I’m sure I bought in the 90s. Too scared to look behind the massive jars of dried chillies and bay leaves as I’m sure there’ll be some geriatrics back there…

        Reply
        1. Sofia 2015-01-12 at 10:00

          In the 90’s? Ok so they are at least 15 years old! 🙂

          Reply
  2. Amanda 2015-01-09 at 22:12

    Very interesting! That is so cool that you made your own mustard! I’ve been wanting to do this for so long! Not all first tries are perfect 🙂

    Reply
    1. Sofia 2015-01-10 at 00:57

      You should try too Amanda. We could send each other tips once we have a success 😉

      Reply
  3. maamej 2015-01-09 at 23:40

    Good on you for giving it a go. I look forward to reading a perfected recipe 😉

    Reply
    1. Sofia 2015-01-10 at 01:02

      I’ll try! 😉

      Reply
  4. Sunny 2015-01-10 at 00:26

    Hey Sofia, ooo so those are MUSTARD seeds. Beat me!

    I like Dijon mustard, but I must admit my standards aren’t very high. Supermarket stuff suffices my occasional craving. Still, I’d love to find out if you eventually figure out how this whole thing works!

    Reply
    1. Sofia 2015-01-10 at 01:03

      Don’t worry, I think supermarket Dijon mustard is superb… I hope I eventually figure it out 😛

      Reply
  5. pianolearner 2015-01-10 at 00:31

    I’ve never thought to make my own mustard. I wouldn’t know where to begin. My favourite mustard is probably Dijon (I know that it should be Colemans). Although I do quite like a wholegrain mustard. We often make mustard and cider sauce for pork.

    Reply
    1. Sofia 2015-01-10 at 01:05

      Is Colemans the really hot one? I like really spicy English mustard, but it’s really hard to find around here, so I get Dijon. Mustard and cider sauce… hmm will have to try that.

      Reply
      1. pianolearner 2015-01-10 at 01:08

        Yes Colemans was the smooth one like Dijon but bright yellow and much hotter.

        Reply
        1. Sofia 2015-01-10 at 01:09

          Oh yes, that’s the one I like!!!

          Reply
  6. Sue 2015-01-10 at 00:39

    Eeew, it does NOT look like vomit! Good for you for making your own mustard, sister! Can you send me some? 🙂 We go through an inordinate amount of mustard at our house, it’s all over pretzels and it has to come out for sausages and even cheese for Mike too. Fun seeing you at the party and have a fabulously mustardy weekend with lots of ham and cheese sandwiches!

    Reply
    1. Sofia 2015-01-10 at 01:06

      Hahaha thanks for your trust in my photo 🙂 Maybe once I figure out how to make mustard I could send some. Oh, and if customs won’t confiscate it…. xx

      Reply
  7. Michelle 2015-01-10 at 03:11

    “A jar of solid vomit – I mean, just look at that .” Ha, ha! No, it doesn’t! I remember making some once with pears, I believe. It was good. Steve was just saying we need to try making mustard again. But then he realized how old our mustard seeds are. (Only Erma and the ancient Egyptians would approve.)

    Reply
    1. Sofia 2015-01-12 at 09:53

      Mustard with pears? Or was it a pear recipe with mustard? How is that, it sounds very interesting!

      Reply
      1. Michelle 2015-01-12 at 14:30

        A mustard that had pear added to it. Somebody gave me the recipe (back in the days when things were written on pieces of paper!). I have no idea what I did with it.

        Reply
  8. A Home Cook 2015-01-10 at 07:53

    I’m impressed you even tried. You’re way ahead of us. Your jar of mustard does not look anything like vomit, by the way. It looks like a jar of mustardy coloured mustard.

    Reply
    1. Sofia 2015-01-12 at 10:01

      Oh, thanks! For the next mustard maybe I’ll try a more grainy one so that I like the look of it more 😉

      Reply
  9. Pemberley Cup & Cakes by Rosa 2015-01-10 at 14:51

    Brava, Sofia! Making your own mustard is an impressive achievement! I must admit I never considered the idea of making my own mustard, but now a there goes new challenge…
    You never stop amazing me!
    Un beso

    Reply
    1. Sofia 2015-01-12 at 10:02

      You should try Rosa, then we could exchange mustard recipes 🙂 Un beso!

      Reply
  10. Guillermina Stover 2015-01-11 at 00:16

    Yes, oh yes, oh. Very. Yes. “Our best lessons are learned from our mistakes.” Bravissimo, Sofia, you are on the right track…but then again, you are an intelligent and CURIOUS young woman. Wouldn’t expect less from you…

    And the mustard looks delicious…

    Reply
    1. Sofia 2015-01-12 at 10:03

      The problem is that maybe I make too many mistakes… 😉 xx

      Reply
  11. Frugal Hausfrau 2015-01-12 at 20:43

    Love it! Home-made mustards have been on my bucket-list for awhile. 🙂 Nice, too, to see “honest” feedback – I always learn more from my mistakes than my successes!

    Reply
    1. Sofia 2015-01-16 at 23:39

      Oh yeah, if I photograph them, I do publish my mistakes here! 🙂

      Reply
  12. Bunny Eats Design 2015-01-13 at 07:44

    Haha. Interesting vomit you must have 🙂

    I like the sound of honey mustard. Actually I love mustard in general. If I’m eating sausages, I take it as an opportunity for mustard and The Koala loves mustard with Chinese style roast pork. Mmmm…me too. I think as far as condiments go, mustard is quite…un-sinful. Is that a word? No?

    It’s funny, I love Hot English Mustard and The Koala loves very mild American Mustard so we always have both kinds. I wonder if adding honey to either would work?

    This post, even without a recipe would make a great submission to Our Growing Edge this month too!

    Reply
    1. Sofia 2015-01-16 at 23:38

      Haha lucky I haven’t had to vomit in quite a while.
      I love hot English mustard too. Maybe I should learn how to make that! I think mustard is un-sinful too, don’t worry!
      Can I still submit this post for the Growing Edge or am I late? … I’ll check!

      Reply
  13. Liz 2015-01-14 at 05:54

    A while back, I clipped recipes for mustard from a local paper as it seemed like a fun project. Still on the to-do list, but I appreciate reading of your experience. Looks like you scored–what a fun DIY. One of those things that would be tastier and even less spendy made at home.

    Reply
    1. Sofia 2015-01-16 at 23:40

      You should give it a try! Hey maybe we should make a “mustard challenge”.

      Reply
  14. Dalo 2013 2015-01-17 at 21:13

    I am so happy you mentioned how your mustard looked…as I was trying to think of a way to politely say what you said 🙂 I do like mustard, though, and couldn’t imagine making it ~ so curious to how homemade mustard must taste… I also like different types. It is a good spice, and never really thought of it as a spice before.

    Reply
    1. Sofia 2015-01-18 at 13:19

      Ah, see, great minds think alike, we both think the same of my mustard 🙂

      Reply

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