Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Faux Caviar aka Pickled Mustard Seeds

Bread and Butter Pickles (click for recipe)
Summer produce is beginning to hit its stride. Tomatoes are finally ripening up here so far north. And pickling season is in full swing. These last couple of weeks I have made about 8 quarts of Bread and Butter Pickles for my husband. I am not the pickle fanatic he is, though I do love these pickles. It just isn't the thing I think of when sitting down to a meal. Last summer I made about 18 quarts of his Mom's green Lime Chunk Pickles, and he does love them, but I believe he loves the Bread and Butter Pickles more, on a daily basis. So this summer I am focusing on making these. I will keep making them, a bit at a a time until the season ends. It is easy enough to do on a small scale like this. And still very rewarding. I will never be the "Queen of all Things Pickled" that his Mom was, but I hope I am honoring her memory in making these.

My Mom canned some things when I was young, but pickles were not necessarily top of her list. She canned lots of fruit and beets and made some delicious Stewed Tomato relish; she made a lot of jams. Mom and Dad had bought an upright freezer way back then, and mom started freezing a lot of fruit, particularly strawberries and vegetables like green beans, corn and others. Recently I had made some pickled red onions that just taste superb and really set off a sandwich or make a wonderful garnish at any meal. Since I was making those on a 1-quart basis, I have not bothered with getting out the canning pot and doing the water bath. I just pop them straight into the fridge for immediate use. 

While I am not so much into pickling things, I have done my share of canning. When I lived in Guatemala, they had no decent pickles at all. In my later teens I had gotten to like dill pickles, but in Guatemala there were no such things. I had my trusty Joy of Cooking, and made dill pickles from that cookbook, to the delight of all my in-laws there. I grew the cucumbers, going out daily to pick small ones, gathering them up until I had enough to make a few jars. I grew my own dill also. I usually had a few quarts of various canned foods and jams on top of the kitchen cabinets, for when we had company.

Pickled Mustard Seeds
So a few weeks ago I was reading one of my cooking magazines and noticed something about pickled mustard seeds. I read further to find that they will make that little "pop" in the mouth like caviar, and so they have been sometimes called "Faux Caviar." Pickling mustard seeds, I wondered? But why? Once again, it appears that these are a good topping for little appetizers. The pickled seeds can be used like a sweet mustard on a sandwich. They are versatile. I was intrigued. As I usually do, I went online and searched for recipes, finding that there are about as many recipes and techniques as there are people making them. One had a process of boiling them, draining, boiling and draining various times before even getting to making them pickled. Others just tossed all the ingredients into a pan and cooked them. The methods were all over the board, for style. 

I wanted to make these, but not if it involved that much work. I will work for things when I feel it is worth my time, as with making an Indian or a Guatemalan meal. Making pickled mustard seeds was not that high on my list. I had never tried them, never even heard of them, prior to that day. I just wanted to see what they were like. I created a middle-of-the-road recipe.

The results were both surprising and not. Surprising because, though I knew the recipe involved vinegar and sugar, the flavor was much like a whole grain honey mustard. They did have a bit of a pop in the mouth, but not as much as I had anticipated, based on what I had read. Spread on bread for a sandwich, they are amazing. I haven't had cause to use them to garnish an appetizer. Use them to top pork chops. They will brighten any fatty dish. Use them in cole slaw or red cabbage. Try them in a vinaigrette or aioli. They will really brighten up fish. 
Pickled Mustard Seeds or Faux Caviar

So for now, they are in the fridge, waiting for their turn. Here is my recipe, broken out into grams or ounces also:

Pickled Mustard Seeds

Makes about 1 3/4 cups

1/2 cup (3 ounces / 85 grams) yellow mustard seeds
1 cup (8 ounces / 240 grams) plain rice vinegar
1/4 cup (1.8 ounces / 51 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (.07 ounces / 2 grams) salt

In a saucepan, combine the mustard seeds and vinegar and allow to soak for 1 hour. Once the hour is elapsed, add the salt and sugar and bring to boil. Lower heat to a simmer and let the seeds cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the seeds are tender and will pop when chewed. Pour into a clean jar with tight fitting lid and let cool. Store in the refrigerator until needed. 

Once cooked, the seeds will thicken the liquid significantly. When cooled, the mixture is thick as any mustard.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.