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French Condiments

French Condiments

Mustard is often a part in preparation of tasty French dishes. It is an essential ingredient and a condiment of the French cuisine.

 What is mustard?

Mustard is made from a plant of the family Brassicacae simply called mustard. It is obtained from the seeds of a size smaller than 1 mm.

There are different varieties of mustard but the essential are three: white mustard, brown mustard and black mustard. In France, this condiment is made from white grain mustard mixed with verjus (unfermented juice of wine grapes), except for Dijon where the black, the Brassica nigra mustard are used.

 History of mustard

The origin of the mustard can be traced back to the ancient Greece where it was discovered to Aesculapius. But it was only in Rome that mustard conquered the world. At Roman homes, it was a part of almost every meal. At that time, mustard seeds where ground and mixed with wine to form a paste. The famous Roman writer Pliny the Elder made a study that describes the mustard in his famous encyclopedia, Natural History, a book dating from the first century.

Then gradually, new mustard recipes emerged, as was the case in the sixteenth century when the recipe for the dry mustard was developed. In France, the evolution of mustard meant that the role of mustard was re-invented. Nowadays, mustard is essential in French kitchens. It is also the third most consumed condiment, behind the salt and pepper.

 Cooking with mustard

Mustard plays a role in recipes where the meat dishes. Mustard also helps the preservation of meat. In the French cuisine, there is a rule to follow regarding the use of mustard. Mustard is made to accompany boiled meat, to add flavor. Meats, cold cuts must also be served with mustard.

Mustard is also found in several sauces, such as dressing and mayonnaise.

It is the best to keep the mustard in an airtight jar. It can be stored in the refrigerator for months as long the expiry date is valid.

Where to find quality mustard?

It is Burgundy where one finds the best French mustard. It is this region specialty. The city of Dijon which gave the name to the world famous Dijon mustard, is the capital of the Burgundy region in the eastern France.

Mustard jar is often labeled with "Dijon". It creates confusion as except for Amora-Maille company till 2009, the condiment is actual not made in Dijon, the capital of Burgundy.  The "Dijon mustard" does not have a protected designation of origin (PDO). Any manufacturer in the world who complies with a composition specifications can claim his mustard to be "Dijon".

Despite this, Burgundy still produces 90% of French mustard and 50% of that is consumed in Europe. However, since the end of World War II, the majority of seeds used for the manufacture of mustard are no longer grown in the region. They come from Canada (80%), the United States and other countries. Only a small production was revived in the department of Côte-d'Or  in the 1990s.

Since 2009, "Burgundy mustard" enjoys the indication of protected origin (IGP). It contains only seeds from crops Burgundy mustard and vinegar from AOC wine. Today, the production of mustard in France is industrialized.

Only one company, the Edmond Fallot, makes it in the traditional manner, by crushing using a grindstone  in Beaune (Côte d'Or). Started in 1840, it has been an independent, family owned company since then. Mustards produced by Fallon include the Dijon mustard, the traditional mustards where verjus is used for preparation together with whole mustard seeds, and mustards flavored with different herbs.

Until 2009, Amora-Maille was the only company to produce mustard in Dijon. Then the production was moved  ten kilometers away from the capital of Burgundy.  Amora brand started  in 1919 in Dijon. Antoine Maille developed during the Great Plague in 1720 in Marseille an antiseptic vinegar, which was used to fight the epidemic. Amora-Maille is now subsidiary of Unliver.

Tapenade

An olive tapenade is a spreadable paste made from black or green olives. The olive tapenade is made in a blender or food processor using olives, garlic, capers and olive oil. Sometimes one adds anchovies. Tapenade is often used in sandwiches and snacks, it is also very tasty if  incorporated into meals. The olive tapenade gives a fresh and spicy flavor to many kinds of foods.

The green olive tapenade is used more frequently for appetizers. Use the paste to spread on crackers or a slice of toast or bruschetta, pita chips or focaccia. It may be used alone or with other ingredients such as chopped red peppers, chunks of salmon or cheese. Mix the cream cheese with tapenade and then spread it on a flour tortilla, roll tightly and refrigerate. Cut these rolls into slices to make pinwheels tapenade.

The tapenade is versatile and is a great way to fill any sandwich. It is particularly well mixed as salad with egg and lettuce. The tuna salad also improved with the addition of tapenade. Mix the tapenade mayonnaise and minced garlic and spread on any sandwich bread, then stuff with ham, chicken or turkey. Add lettuce and tomatoes and slices of cheese if desired. Add to your tapenade and mayonnaise mixture a little horseradish and spread on a sandwich of roast beef.

The tapenade is not just a light snack. You can also try it in a main dish. Add flavor to a boneless chicken breast, crushing and marinating in the Italian dressing, then add tapenade before rolling and cooking. Lighten the tapenade with a little olive oil and lemon juice and brush over chicken or turkey before roasting. Put some tapenade on pizza dough before making a white pizza topped with salami, red onions, dried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese.