There is something about mustard, you will either love it or hate it. I obviously am a lover; in any and all forms possible. Micro greens, greens, tempered seeds, kashundi, English, Dijon, oil, you think of it and I will in all probability will like it. There are times even those mass produced indistinct mustard sauce sachets have saved many a insipid coffee shop sandwiches. Such is the love for mustard.
A lot has to do with the fact that in a Bengali kitchen mustard and mustard oil has a very coveted position, second only to fresh, home made ghee from cow’s milk. Mustard is mostly known for its pungency and sharpness – there is a reason it’s a home remedy for a bout of runny nose. But there is also a beautiful earthiness in its flavor which expresses differently in different forms.
Browsing through some of my favorite food websites I stumbled across pickled mustard… wait for it, seeds. Pickled mustard greens and micro greens are fairly fathomable, but seeds? Apparently, they are the next big thing internationally; have been for a few years now. Here in Mumbai, I’ve come across just one reference of a restaurant using pickled mustard seeds, The Bombay Canteen.
In any case the description said poor man’s caviar, Curiosity aroused, a quick research was the next step. Basic recipes said that simple five minute boil would be more than enough but it didn’t seem to make sense. Mustard seeds are tough little buggers which need a lot of effort, 5 minutes of brining cannot be enough. Finally, found a blog which only focuses on brining, yes people are that specific about their passions.
Basic plan of action was to see which version worked the 5 minutes one or hour long one. The quantity of ingredients in both cases were similar:
1 cup of vinegar,
1 cup of sugar,
1 cup of water,
½ cup of yellow mustard seeds
Vinegar I used was the commercial stuff but if you have mirin, sake or white wine vinegar to spare you could use that. Try half and half, that would pinch the pocket less.
Instructions are simple. In a pan pour in vinegar and water, add the sugar, put it on low heat and stir till the sugar dissolves. Once it is dissolved, add the seeds and bring the mix to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer.
A quick check after 5 minutes – clearly the brine hasn’t been absorbed by the seeds. Ideally, the seeds should swell up but like I mentioned mustard seeds are stubborn fellows. So let it be, but keep an eye on the pan, never let the water level go lower than the seeds, add more water if need be. Let the slow gradual heat do its magic. After almost an hour, whenever your patience runs out, take the pan off the heat and let it come to room temperature.
While that happens, prep your jar. Sterilising a jar with hot water is a good idea to avoid fungus or any other bacteria developing. Dry the jar completely, then strain the seeds and fill the jar up. Don’t throw the remaining liquid, use it to top up the jar. Close it tightly and let it stay for a day or two for the brine to seep in further.
Voila! The DIY pickled mustard seeds was a massive success. The jar sits pretty in my refrigerator and comes out whenever I fancy some soy eggs, which is very often. They will make great additions on savory canapes, salads and even steamed dumplings, yet to try those. While I do agree it is a poor man’s caviar, my description of them would be like this – little dots of sweet and sour with a burst of slightly pungent earthiness topped up with a hint of bitterness.
Therefore, yet another addition in my mustard chronicles – pickled mustard seeds.