Issue No. 13: American Spoon’s Whole Seed Mustard

Here’s a secret about American Spoon’s Whole Seed Mustard: it’s actually not mustard. You wouldn’t think that to look at the ingredient list; it’s made of the same stuff as mustard. You wouldn’t think it’s not mustard when you use it, either; it tastes like mustard and makes a great addition to sausages, burgers, sandwiches, vinaigrettes, and just about anywhere else you’d want to use mustard.

Before you lose sleep tonight worrying about why it’s excluded by the other mustard kids on the block, here’s the distinction: true mustard is made from seeds that are ground to make a paste. They can be ground smooth and creamy, like Raye’s yellow mustard, or more coarsely so that you still get the crunch of some whole seeds, like Violet mustard. But American Spoon’s mustard isn’t ground at all. Instead, the seeds are left whole and brined, which means technically I should be calling it pickled mustard seed, not mustard proper. But I hope you’ll excuse me—I’m going to keep calling it mustard, and you can too.

Don’t feel too bad for pickled mustard seed being separated from the rest of the mustard pack. Instead of an exclusion, think of it as an elevation, a membership to an elite mustard club. It’s been the darling ingredient of chefs like Tom Colicchio of Craft and David Chang of Momofuku, both of whom have had dishes with pickled mustard seed on their menus for years.

American Spoon makes the champagne of mustard.

Because the seeds are left whole they are very crunchy. When you bite them they burst in your mouth with a pop like caviar or, better yet, like champagne bubbles. Since the spread is made of whole mustard seeds suspended in just enough brine to keep it wet and hold it together, every nibble is as effervescent as the last. This is champagne food at a fraction of the cost.

American Spoon even uses sparkling wine in the mustard. But rather than sourcing champagne from across the Atlantic, they looked just down the road from their kitchen in Petoskey, Michigan to local winemaker Larry Mawby. Mawby has been producing sparkling wines—and only sparkling wines—on Michigan’s Leelenau peninsula under his L. Mawby label since 1978. American Spoon brings in his Green sparkling wine by the barrel and mixes it with vinegar, salt, and spices like cardamom along with yellow and black mustard seeds. Using the wine gives a deeper, richer flavor to the mustard seeds than if they were brined just in vinegar (as most pickled mustard seeds are). Unfortunately the wine’s bubbles are long gone by the time you open the jar—the only pop will be the mustard seed.

What the heck do you do with American Spoon’s mustard, anyway?

The flavor is bright and tangy. It’s incredibly well balanced: a bit sweet, a bit acidic, with just a small bit of mustard heat. But it’s the texture that really stands out for me, so I like to use it in ways where that facet can shine, like dolloping it on a roasted pork loin or atop lox like you’d do with capers. It’s great smeared on a bratwurst or pretzel, too. Noah Marshall-Rashid, son of American Spoon founder Justin Rashid, told me he really likes to eat it with tinned fish like eel or sardines, where the saltiness and silkiness of the fish plays off its brightness and crunch.