Sleeper Spices: Mustard Seed

Wake up your palate and expand your cooking repertoire with spices you may not have experienced before. In this installment of our series highlighting “sleeper” spices, learn about the unique seasoning capabilities of brown and yellow mustard seed — and get tips for using it to awaken your next cooking endeavor.

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By Tom Havran

What it tastes like: You’re likely familiar with mustard from its use as a condiment on sandwiches, but using the seeds in whole or ground form as a spice will open up exciting new flavors for you to experience. In their inert state, mustard seeds have a rich, nutty, oily flavor. But when combined with a liquid, watch out! An enzyme in the seed reacts with other compounds called glucosinolates to create a complex of flavors including hot-pungent, vegetal and garlicky. The more heated and acidic the liquid, the hotter the mustard will be.

What it looks like: Mustard seed comes in three basic varieties: black, brown and yellow. Brown and yellow mustards are the most commonly used, with the brown being a bit more pungent than the yellow. The seeds are tiny, nearly perfect 1-milimeter spheres.

How to use it: Many Indian dishes begin with whole mustard seeds fried in oil along with curry leaf. Besides imparting the oil — and every subsequent ingredient that passes through the oil — with a pungent mustardy flavor, the seeds themselves become a nutty, toothsome delight in the finished dish. The ground seeds form a slightly oily powder that’s the basis for the condiment mustard, but it can also be used in any powdered seasoning blend, marinade or dry seasoning rub.

Here are a few tips about how to use mustard seed:

  • Add whole seeds to pickling brines and meat brines.
  • Fry whole seeds in oil and then add them to rice before topping it with curry.
  • Fry whole seeds in oil along with whole cumin seeds and add them to samosa or curry pot pie fillings.
  • Grind seeds and combine with other seasonings in dry rubs for grilled meats and tofu.
  • Grind seeds and make your own fresh mustard by stirring in plain water, wine, fruit juice or vinegar.

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Recipe: Beer Mustard

Have you ever tried mustard seed? Share what you thought of it in the comments below!

Tom-HavranAbout the author: Tom is communicator of natural living for Frontier, Simply Organic and Aura Cacia brands. In other words, he’s a very imaginative copywriter. A local boy, raised on a farm just down the road from the company’s headquarters in Norway, Tom enjoys drawing, plant hoarding, cooking and living the simple life in the beautiful state of Iowa.

Sleeper Spices: Mace

Wake up your palate and expand your cooking repertoire with spices you may not have experienced before. In this installment of our series highlighting “sleeper” spices, learn about the unique seasoning capabilities of mace — and get tips for using it to awaken your next cooking endeavor.

Frontier Organic Mace

By Tom Havran

What it tastes like: Mace and nutmeg are derived from the same fruit of the same tree (Myristica frangrans). The aroma and flavor of mace recall nutmeg, but mace is a bit more delicate and ethereal.

What it looks like: Mace consists of the fleshy aril, a fruit-like structure that surrounds a whole nutmeg. They appear as filamentous tendrils which are bright red when fresh and dry to a rosy-orange color. Mace can be purchased whole, cut and sifted, or ground. The latter appears as a slightly oily, tan-orange powder. Continue reading

Sleeper Spices: Juniper Berry

Wake up your palate and expand your cooking repertoire with spices you may not have experienced before. In this installment of our series highlighting “sleeper” spices, learn about the unique seasoning capabilities of juniper berries — and get tips for using them to awaken your next cooking endeavor.

Frontier juniper berries

What it tastes like: Juniper berries combine a fruity-tangy essence with a forest-fresh, palette-expanding note. The aroma is a bit reminiscent of grapes and evergreen tree resin.

What it looks like: Blackish-purple, plump little berries about the size of wild blueberries. Continue reading

Sleeper Spices: Grains of paradise

Frontier Grains of Paradise

By Tom Havran

Wake up your palate and expand your cooking repertoire with spices you may not have experienced before. In this installment of our series highlighting “sleeper” spices, learn about the unique seasoning and spicing capabilities of grains of paradise — and get tips for using it to awaken your next cooking endeavor.

What it tastes like: With the most romantic name in all spicedom, grains of paradise warrant their illustrious title with their vivid, peppery flavor. Even though the flavor is reminiscent of black pepper, this exotic West African spice is actually distantly related to cardamom. It has an aromatic, volatile, slightly citrusy flavor and creates a pungent sensation on the tongue. People who find the taste of black pepper too sharp and unvaried may prefer the more suave, lingering heat of grains of paradise.

What it looks like: Whole seeds are brownish-black, 1/8-inch wide, irregularly shaped and grain-like. Continue reading

Sleeper Spices: Fenugreek

Wake up your palate and expand your cooking repertoire with spices you may not have experienced before. In this installment of our series highlighting “sleeper” spices, learn about the unique seasoning capabilities of fenugreek — and get tips for using it to enhance your next cooking endeavor.

Frontier fenugreek

By Tom Havran

What it tastes like: Fenugreek seed has a raw, nutty, moderately bitter flavor and a pungent aroma. Dry-roasting the seeds in a hot pan helps decrease the bitterness and transforms the raw, nutty flavor into a mellow, maple syrup-like sweetness.

What it looks like: The yellowish-to-tan seeds of fenugreek are small (1/8-inch) irregular rectangles. They are in fact little beans, as fenugreek is a legume. Continue reading

Sleeper Spices: Fennel Seed

Wake up your palate and expand your cooking repertoire with spices you may not have experienced before. In this third installment of our series highlighting “sleeper” spices, learn about the unique seasoning and coloring capabilities of fennel seed — and get tips for using it to awaken your next cooking endeavor.

Frontier Co-op fennel seed

By Tom Havran

What it tastes like: The flavor of fennel seed and its close cousin, anise seed, are often described as licorice-like, which is actually backward. Since extracts of both are used to flavor licorice (usually in much greater quantities than licorice root), the taste of the candy should be described as anise or fennel-like. The constituent most responsible for fennel’s taste is anethol — it provides a volatile, vegetal sweetness that has a slight warming sensation.

What it looks like: Whole seeds look like ribbed, fat little parenthesis symbols, greenish tan in color. (They should not have any of the dried stem, or “whiskers” attached.) Ground fennel seed is a brownish, granular powder that has a slightly damp, oily texture when fresh. Continue reading

Sleeper Spices: Coriander

organic coriander seed

By Tom Havran

Wake up your palate and expand your cooking repertoire with spices you may not have experienced before. In this first installment of our series highlighting “sleeper” spices, learn about the unique seasoning capabilities of coriander and get tips for awakening it in your next cooking endeavor.

What it tastes like: Coriander seeds are the fruit of the same plant that gives us cilantro leaves. If you are one of the rare individuals who has a natural aversion to the flavor of cilantro, you may want to try coriander in its place because it lacks the soapy aldehyde flavor of the cilantro herb. Instead, it contains the flavor constituents of limonene and linalool — which also happen to be the primary constituents in the spicy rind of the bergamot orange. Coriander adds an aromatic, fruit-like and mildly spicy lift to foods. Continue reading