Colonel Mustard Did It In The Kitchen…

…with a Szechuan Peppercorn!

I am not an intellectual. An intellectual is someone who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso, whereas I just say ‘pass the mustard’.

                                                                                                       -Sebastian Horsley

szechuan mustardI suppose we could be accused of over thinking our food, of making more of it than it is. Yet, to think of food as only fuel for the body misses the majority of what food is. To me, asceticism is as great a sin as gluttony, and perhaps an even more profound sin. I guess it all depends upon the intent behind the action. I’ve always considered food as a communion. Even when I eat alone, there is an intimate tie to other people, even people I have never met or heard of.

Lacking a really great segue, I will leap directly from communion into mustard making. The mustard I chose to make for my first trail is one from the depths of my murky mind. When I bought mustard seeds online from The Spice House, in Chicago, I also saw that they sold Sichuan (Szechuan) peppercorns. I’ve always wanted to try using those in stir fries, so I bought a couple of ounces. I had heard that they give an odd, numbing sensation on the tongue. They were the first thing I tried when the package arrived. The flavor is a bit medicinal, but also nicely floral. I just let the bud, berry or whatever the little dried up kernel is sit on the tip of my tongue and against my lower lip. The floral notes increased and it felt as though an odd, chalky paste was oozing from the bud, Suddenly, it felt as though a fizzy tablet had been placed on my tongue and then a distinct impression of numbness bathed my lower lip and tongue! It’s nice when things live up to expectations.

The floral notes of Sichuan peppercorns might work well in a Dijon style mustard. That’s what made me decide to go with this experiment. I am hoping that some of the flavor of the peppercorns comes through, but more, I really hope that the numbing effect is apparent. I think it will be a real kick!

Grainy Dijon Mustard With Szechuan Peppercorns

2 Tbs yellow mustard seeds (mild)

2 Tbs brown mustard seeds (hot)

1 Tbs yellow mustard powder (mild)

1 1/2 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns

1/2 cup Sauvignon Blanc

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

3/4 tsp Kosher salt

1/2 tsp Brown sugar

Soak the seeds overnight, or for at least two hours, in the wine and vinegar. I use a homemade vinegar that started its life as Sauvignon Blanc. Meanwhile, toast the peppercorns in a small pan over medium high heat until they are fragrant (a couple minutes). Remove to a mortar and grind until fine with a pestle. Adding the kosher salt can help break down the peppercorns. Seal in a baggie with the mustard powder, and brown sugar.

Next day put all ingredients into a blender and puree to the desired consistency. Don’t be alarmed if the mixture looks too thin. It will thicken with a bit more blending and time! Transfer to a glass jar and seal. It will keep in the refrigerator for several months.

The mustard will be very hot and bitter directly after processing. It is best to wait a day or two after making it. I couldn’t be bothered to wait, and I tried it immediately after blending it. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! My tongue leapt out of my head into a pan of cold, nasty dishwater in the sink. My eyes teared so badly that it was a long while before I could see where my tongue had gotten to, but being sympathetic with it, I didn’t force it back into my mouth for several minutes. Sometimes it is better to accept that directions are the way they are for a reason.

Several hours after making the mustard I tried it again. It has mellowed significantly. No body parts tried to get away. I can detect the peppercorns, but the level really needs to be increased* to see if the numbing effect can be brought out. Still, there is a floral, spiciness that regular Dijon mustard doesn’t have. It was a successful experiment.

*The recipe as written accounts for an increase in both the peppercorns and salt.

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