Mustard seed is cultivated all over the world today and the plant flourishes in most temperate climates. There are several varieties and one of them is the typical Indian mustard seed which is brown in colour and originated from the Northern Himalayas. It is scientifically known as Brassica Juncea and has a flavour all its own.When ground into a powder, it does not have the brilliant yellow colour of prepared mustard, as produced in the US.The ubiquitous American mustard, which spills out and slops over most fast food , hot dogs and hamburgers, sandwiches and fries, achieves its unreal colour through the addition to powdered yellow mustard of Allepey turmeric, a haldi harvested in Kerala! Mustard grows extensively in Bihar and Bengal which is why it is used so frequently in the cuisines of those states. In Maharashtra as well , one of the most commonly used spices is rai.
And yet I associate mustard most with Punjab, where fields of yellow mustard flowers stretch to reach the horizon and cooking Makki di Roti ( Flat Corn bread) and Sarson da Sag, a vegetable made from slow cooking mustard greens, are the only way to celebrate the end of winter. The following recipe for a mild pickle uses a yellow mustard but our more pungent brown mustard will do nicely too. Here mustard acts both to perk up the pickle and as a preservative, to retard bacterial growth.
2 kg green tomatoes, chopped
4 large onions, sliced
2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 kg cane sugar
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp cloves
40 gms salt ( sea salt if possible)
1 litre malt vinegar
Put all the ingredients together in a heavy pan. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and let the mixture simmer for about 2 hours stirring occasionally. When it has become a pulp and the liquid has reduced turn off the heat and take off the fire.Pour into sterilised glass bottles immediately.
How to sterilise jam jars:Take a heavy bottomed saucepan, (the bottom of a 5 litre pressure cooker will do) , and place 4 -5 bottles in it. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 15 minutes.Pop the lids in for the last 5 minutes. Remove from the hot water and stand upright on a tea towel. Fill with the hot pickle upto a 1/4 inch from the top. Cover with butterpaper and screw lids on tight. Refrigeration will help preserve the taste of the mustard .