Mustard, Finally

mustard seeds & powder

Of all the jars of jams and sauces and condiments that jostle for space in our three refrigerator shelves, Sriracha against walnut oil, soy sauce (now only this kind, purchased in bulk. It’s life-changing!**) vs. hot pepper jelly, Cholula and Frank’s, mustard has the greatest footprint. Currently there are four bottles of mustard with varying levels smoothness, spreadability, and sinus-clearing spiciness, and of these, two are homemade.

A friend recently questioned the wisdom of homemade mustard when it’s so cheap to buy and so hard to finish.  Romantic comedies of a certain ilk tend to show a lonely bachelor or bachelorette squinting into the refrigerator light to find naught but an old, stained Chinese takeout container, a half-empty jar of mustard, and a bottle of light beer.  That just doesn’t happen in our house. First of all, we go through mustard about as quickly as ice cream.  (Not amazing ice cream, but decent ice cream that takes two weeks to polish off).  It goes on our ham, and cheese, and sausages, with just about every cruciferous vegetable, bread, crackers, salad dressing, potatoes, etc.  Secondly, even though it’s inexpensive, it’s still not that inexpensive when you like the type of mustard with the whole seeds, with that pleasing mouthfeel and tiny ‘pop’, and also when you basically eat it by the ladleful.  Third, there are a few food blogs I read whose recipes I trust implicitly, and when one of these posted ideas for a few types of homemade mustard, I was whipping up a batch within the week. Oh and fourth, it takes literally three minutes to make, not counting the waiting time. Literally. You pour everything in one bowl, and then you stir it and let it sit for two days. And maybe give it a whiz with the hand blender, to your preferred consistency. Done.


Here’s one of the three recipes, the brainchild of Good Food Matters, slightly altered and then doubled because we love our mustard so. Definitely visit her site to check out recipes for the other two.

1 cup white wine
6 tablespoons vinegar (I used a mix of white wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar)
6 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
6 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
8 tablespoons powdered mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Stir all ingredients together in a glass or ceramic bowl until thoroughly combined, then cover with plastic wrap. Keep at room temperature (aka unrefrigerated), and allow the liquid to soften the mustard seeds for 48 hours. Uncover and blitz with an immersion blender until it reaches your desired consistency.  Place in a clean jar and refrigerate, then slather on just about anything.



**When the Williams Sonoma outlet had bottles of it on clearance, for some bizarre reason I attribute only to the facts that people like their Kikkoman’s and why shop around for soy sauce, I made my nice mother load up on so much that she nearly herniated another disc. And that’s with me carrying two thirds of it to the car.

4th Generation Fruit Cobbler

Just returned from a weeklong Texas trip, so recaps and reviews are in order.  To start things off, here’s a recipe for my version of my mom’s version of my Mema’s version of my granny’s version of fruit cobbler.  So ultimately it’s a modified 4th generation Hoelscher-Becker recipe from (clap-clap-clap-clap) deep in the heart of Texas. Everyone in the family has their own distinct recollections of the making and consumption of the cobbler, but they all like to reference the crunchy, butterscotch-y edge pieces, a result of pouring the wet batter into the melted butter.

I asked my sisters for some of their related memories.  Here’s what they conjured up –

Gooey plips snuggle
Scarlet turned golden
Tickles my nose
And my memories of
Pumpkin carvings
Fireworks versus arrowheads
Cowboy hats and edelweiss
My insides grin
The recipe unfolds
In my own kitchen
Black and white checkered
linoleum floor
I know what to do
I will keep this alive
This beautiful cobbler
Sigh: an Oath
I’ll pass this along
I’ll pass this along

M: On the rare occasions Mom would make cobbler, I remember smelling it from my room. I’d leave my homework and follow the smell down the stairs and into the kitchen. Usually the only light on in the kitchen while it was cooking was the light above the stove. Opening the oven while something is cooking in this family is strictly forbidden so whilst peering into the oven one had to cup their hands around their eyes and squint to see the golden cobbler baking. And of course the lightbulb in the oven was always out so the suspense built until the tart-sweet treasure was pulled out… It wasn’t so much that the cobbler tasted delicious – I think I’ve always enjoyed it because it’s been handed down and I like thinking about mom eating it when she was my age or Granny cooking it for Mema. I always imagine them in the same dim glow similar to the lighting in the kitchen when I’d creep down to check to see if the cobbler was ready yet. 

4th Generation Fruit Cobbler**

Approx. 3 cups roughly chopped fresh fruit (peaches, plums, nectarines, raspberries, blueberries, etc). You can supplement with frozen fruit (raspberries, blueberries, and peaches work best)
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar (could use a little less or a little more depending on the sweetness of your fruit)
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the stick of butter in an oven-safe ceramic or glass cake pan and put in the oven to melt while you chop the fruit.  Once the butter has melted, remove about a half of it to a mixing bowl. (Take care in doing this – hot pan, hot butter!  Alternately, you could melt half the stick of butter in the baking pan in the oven, and half in the mixing bowl in the microwave.  The main point of this is to leave half a stick of melting butter in the baking pan).

Once butter in the mixing bowl has cooled a little, add the milk, vanilla, and sugar, and mix with a whisk until combined.  Then add the flour, salt and baking powder, and mix until just combined.  The batter will be a bit like a loose pancake batter.  Don’t worry if you have a few lumps.

Carefully scatter about a cup of the fruit in the baking pan with the butter.  Then pour in the batter.  Scoop the remaining fruit on top of the batter, aiming for even distribution.

Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden brown, fruit juices are bubbling at the sides, and the edges are crispy.  Enjoy very warm with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream with a little sea salt sprinkled on top.

**If you want to go uber-decadent, you can also make an oatmeal crumb topping, as shown in the photos. For this, cut 2 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter into 1 cup of old fashioned rolled oats with 1 teaspoon of salt. Chill this mixture until you’re assembling the cobbler.  Sprinkle it on top of the last layer of fruit before popping the cobbler it in the oven. 

“Crossing That Dirty Water” Saturdays

With all the food and coffee gems in the South End, we rarely make the trip across the Charles to Cambridge, Somerville, Watertown, etc.  There just usually isn’t a contest between walking 5 minutes to Toro or Myers & Chang, or stoking the embers a slow, simmering rage sitting on Mass Ave at red light after red light in the car or bus. But as of late, we’ve been forcing ourselves to explore the environs across the river because when you think about it, three miles isn’t a far distance to travel to reach an area jam-packed with amazing destinations. Thus began the advent of “Crossing That Dirty Water” Saturdays.  Last Saturday saw visits to:

  • HiRise: Probably new to no one in Boston but if you just moved here, please boost it to the top of your list. The prices are high but reflect the quality of the sandwiches, coffees, baked goods, and jams. If you’re put off by straight-to-dour-faced staff, this probably isn’t the place for you, but I don’t mind if my coffee and sandwich aren’t served with a smile when they are this good.
  • Fresh Pond loop:  Took a walk but soon found the 8-foot tall chain link fence that blocked the spectacular view extremely depressing.  The golf course may require a second visit though – $23 for 9 holes on a short, walking course.
  • Porter Square shops:  Ever wonder where you get industrial-sized squirt bottles, deep-fryer baskets, 173 gallon stock pots, teeny tart and madeleine pans? China Fair.  They’ve also got lots of random kitchen tools and pieces, china (that’s a given), party wares, and a basement section full of 1980s era leftovers (i.e. a teeny, flimsy warmer with a small plastic bin for heating up frozen foods, like boxes of peas and corn). This place is appealing to anyone with an inclination for cooking, but go with a friend so you have someone to yell across the store to come look at this!

Today we made it to HiRise again and dodged big, fat raindrops to visit Christina’s Spice & Specialty Foods and Ice Cream place next door. It was verging on the impossible, but we managed to walk out with only a handful of things: Ceylon cinnamon sticks, Goldrush Old fashioned San Francisco Style Sourdough Style (has anyone tried this? I’ve always wanted to get some starter from a handkerchiefed friend with a 50-year old mother batch, but alas, no such friends have come forth), whole green cardamom pods, concentrated pomegranate juice, and beluga lentils.

At the ice cream shop, the Mr. opted for black raspberry with a topping of chocolate chunks and walnuts which he promptly inhaled. I got a scoop of butter almond (awesome) and a scoop of fresh mint (minty as promised but with a, dare I say, underlying flavor almost reminiscent of another fragrant green plant some people might be familiar with). The trip back to the South End was full of hydroplaning adventures, but we made it intact with a bunch of perishable dairy goods from the grocery store which are just the thing to buy in the wake of a hurricane that may kill the power.  If that’s the case, please come over and join our milk, eggs, and cheese party.

Make This Now: Ratatouille

I seriously underestimated ratatouille.  You’d think after watching the movie by the same name, one would have at the very least an appreciation for the dish that brought a sneering, discriminating, albeit cartoon, food critic to tears.  But, no, it seemed to me that the dish was a just a watery, poor excuse for a lasagna.  No noodles?  No cheese?!  But with several yellow squash and eggplants languishing in the fridge, and two very ripe tomatoes with fault-line cracks (they rolled off the counter because this apartment is slanted), there was nothing left to do but make it.

And boy am I a convert.  So much so that I’ve made it twice in four days, loosely following this recipe because I had no red peppers and used yellow squash instead of zucchini.  Somewhere in the slicing and the salting and the roasting, a richness of flavor comes out.  The Good Food Matters blog author writes: “deep candied vegetal flavors” and “caramel-like juices”!  She’s right – it’s true. But if that’s not enough to persuade you, I’ll leave with this:  please, please make this as soon as you can.  It’s the quadrumvirate (can that apply to non-masculine terms?) of awesome meals – cheap, easy, delicious and nutritious.