BURGUNDY MUSTARD, THE NEW DIJON
By DEBRA AMUNDSON
Special to The Epoch Times
If I were to ask what comes to mind when I say Dijon the response would be mustard, of course. The namesake town is a rather large one bursting at the seams with young college students filled with 14th-century architecture, rich history, and surrounded by world famous vineyards. Yet, we would say mustard.
Now a household word, and the most popular type of mustard in the United States today, Dijon has become a term for this spice style of mustard. Dijon is like the Kleenex of mustards.
The first real notoriety of the pungent condiment came after the Dukes of Burgundy threw a party. A rowdy feast ensued, and it is said that they consumed 13 gallons of the spicy sauce. The word must have gone straight from the society pages to the food critics because there has been no turning back. The news of the spicy indulgence spread to the public and was no longer just a favorite of the royals.
It all became official in 1390 when it was decreed the Mustard of Dijon. The popularity spread rapidly, and it is said that King Louis the XI, constantly in fear for his life, carried his own precious bottle with him at all times so it could not be poisoned. Unfortunately his food did not have the same protection. It is unknown how many loyal royal food tasters gave their lives in service to the unpopular king.
Taking a card from the royal deck Maille’s started a Moutarderie of its own and opened the first mustard store in Paris. One hundred years later a store in the town of Dijon opened in 1845. This store still stands today carrying 52 different packaged varieties. Far spicier than any version in the United States the basic mustards are still the most popular in France.
Originally purchased in bulk mustard crocks were filled at the store. Amora, one of the largest manufacturers, gained recognition and business by offering mustard in a jar. Post-war shortages had thrifty French housewives thrilled with the reusable container. A staple in every French home; mustard in matching glasses is still popular.
Were it not for the secret of the recipe resting firmly on the soil of Dijon city, Dijon would no longer have Dijon mustard. In a purely economic move, the French ceased growing mustard seeds years ago. Over 95 percent of the mustard seed is imported, with a whopping 80 percent imported from Canada.
Worse still, the famous Grey Poupon was sold to an American company in 1995.
The delicate yellow flower growing wild on the hillsides of France is not mustard as most assume. A cousin of the mustard plant, and darn near as pretty — the plant masquerading as mustard produces rapeseed used in making cooking oil
MUSTARD OF DIJON: The delicate yellow flower growing wild on the hillsides of France is not mustard, but a cousin of the mustard plant. The French stopped growing mustard seeds years ago.
Grey Poupon created the fame of Dijon Mustard in the United States with the popular “pass the Poupon” commercial. Sales jumped overnight by 50 percent, an unheard of statistic in marketing. Americans were so successful as distributors that they bought Grey Poupon, now manufactured in the United States.
Approximately 95 percent of all French mustard is still made in Burgundy the home of Dijon. One family-owned company, Fallot the only independent left in the trade, has spearheaded a campaign to bring pride back to the mustard of Burgundy and have the seeds grown there.
Marc Desarmenien, of Fallot said, “We still produce our mustard the old fashion way, by hand, with stone grinders to preserve the delicate flavor of the seeds.” Sensitive to the nuances of the seed, the Burgundy grown mustard was a natural move for Fallot.
With mustard season in full swing it’s time to introduce the real Dijon of today – Burgundy mustard. While it is starting small the Burgundy Mustar
d Association has three big members Amore, Fallot, and European de Condiments. To be part of the Association they had to pledge to “use only the seed grown in Burgundy, stay loyal to the original recipe, and at least 16 percent of the wine used to produce the mustard must come from Burgundy”.
Despite the imported seed scandal the spicy mustard is still a matter of great French pride. There are two mustard museums within twenty miles of each other in the Dijon area. One of the museums is housed at the Fallot factory, twenty miles from Dijon. While they may manufacture mustard the old fashioned way there is nothing old fashioned about Fallot’s interactive museum; you can make some mustard of your own to take home.
To have pure Dijon mustard today, it would have to be Burgundy mustard. The Association becomes official this year and Fallot is already in production of the new Burgundy brand. “More and more consumers are asking for it; Burgundy mustard is becoming one of the best premium brands,” said Fallot. While it is fast becoming a favorite among the discerning French, only half of their production is reserved for the locals. Mr. Desarmenien said, “Fifty percent of our product is exported. “You should be able to find Burgundy Mustard at specialty stores and better grocers in the United States.”
With the resurgence of the Burgundy mustard seed, a certain honor will return to the pungent condiment with a 600-year history. The Poupon may have been passed, but the mustard is better than ever.