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Mild but not dull, this ballpark and backyard classic punches up everything from hot dogs to salad dressing.
Published Feb. 20, 2019. Appears in Cook's Country August/September 2010
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What You Need To Know
In the condiment world, yellow mustard is often considered the Robin to ketchup's Batman, relegated to a supporting role on burgers and hot dogs. But it's much more than a sidekick. Yellow mustard's pungency and relatively low spice level make it highly versatile, ideal for adding tang and flavor to hot dogs, potato salad, barbecue sauce, marinades, salad dressings, and more.
When we heard that our favorite yellow mustard from our last tasting had been reformulated, we decided to retest. We selected seven top-selling, nationally available products, priced from $0.08 to $0.44 per ounce. We included a low-sodium mustard from Boar's Head since it was that brand's only yellow mustard. We tasted each mustard plain and on pigs in a blanket.
Mustard seeds are a cool-weather crop. Canada is the world's largest producer, so most mustard manufacturers use seeds grown in Canada. According to the Canadian Grain Commission, the regulatory agency tasked with grading mustard seeds, three seed types are grown in Canada: brown, oriental, and yellow (sometimes referred to as white). Brown and oriental seeds are used in spicier mustards, and yellow seeds—flavorful but with less heat—are used in yellow mustard. (Of note: This condiment's sunny color doesn't come from the seeds, which are a more muted hue—it's from the addition of turmeric.)
The seeds become prepared mustard through a straightforward mechanical process. The ingredients (typically mustard seeds, water, vinegar, salt, and spices) are stirred together and then milled between two large stones. According to Allen Sass, president of Wisconsin Spice, the largest miller of mustard seeds in the United States, milling serves two purposes: It extracts mucilage (a thick, gelatinous substance) from the seeds, and it combines all the ingredients. Once milled, the mixture is bottled.
Mustard is often paired with fatty meats, as its characteristic tang can help cut the richness. Some products tasted more acidic, while others were more subdued. We examined ingredient labels and noted that some of the mustards added relatively more water and others more vinegar, but this wasn't the full story. Experts told us that vinegar can have different concentrations, so quantity didn't necessarily explain why certain mustards were tangier than others. And while some tasters appreciated the tartness, the majority preferred mustards that were mellower, with a moderate acidity that didn't dominate other flavors.
Our two favorite mustards had sweet notes that nicely balanced their acidity. But there were no signs of sugar in their ingredient lists or nutritional information. These mustards did include “natural f...
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