I lived within metres of mustard growing as a weed in the reserve next door for 5 years before flicking through Euell Gibbons’ foraging bible Stalking the Wild Asparagus and the chapter on mustard. Wild mustard seeds, Gibbons informed me, can be made into a perfectly passable version of the common condiment. It hit me like Darwin’s theory hit Huxley – as so sensible on learning it that it was almost embarrassing not to have thought of it himself. While I don’t use a lot of it (because my meat mostly goes in stews and pies), getting used a salad dressing ingredient would be enough to account for some pretty serious harvesting.
Next stop, Hank Shaw at the blog Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook and his mustard recipe. Not just easy he says, but ‘stupid easy’. Strangely, that’s quite a bit of pressure – messing up a soufflé is one thing, but failing at ‘stupid easy’ would take some coming back from.
I collected the mustard with secateurs, getting sprigs with mostly seed heads hanging, bunched them and hung them over a bucket to dry and shed their tiny seeds. A bit of trial nibbling on seeds certainly tasted mustardy, but no more than broccoli or cabbage seed for all I knew; and with that I became very keen to find out. I don’t much like being patient, but that was just what I would have to be. The harvest was followed by cool cloudy days and slow drying; and on Shaw’s advice I would have to wait again after I made the stuff. 10 days later, we finally got there.
As for a recipe, I have advanced little from the HAGC version, so I’ll direct you there (http://honest-food.net/2010/10/18/how-to-make-mustard/) and confine myself to the very brief: grind seeds in mortar and pestle, add a bit of water to minimally wet for an initial non-acid reaction, add a little dollop of honey (a New Zealand thyme honey for me) and apple cider vinegar until it gets a pasty consistency, refrigerate for a couple of days, use. The scientist in me made me make a parallel batch using shop-bought mustard seeds as a ‘control sample’. The only real variation came later when to keep it safely unspoiled, and accepting that it was destined for salad dressing, I added crushed garlic, more vinegar and topped with oil in a jar.