Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Tierenteyn Mustard The Belgian's taste for mustard goes back at least to the Middle Ages when these little seeds, yellow and black, started to become available in trading cities like Ghent, which in the 13th century was second only to Paris as a leading centre of manufacture and trade. The use of mustard entered Belgian culinary tradition and never left, for mustard, both as a flavouring and as a condiment, did wonders to perk up insipid meats and was particularly useful in masking any meat that had become a bit too aged. Mustard merchants, each one with his own secret methods and ingredients to combine with the mustard seeds, thrived. Mustards were flavoured with wine, beer, vinegar, or verjus (the juice of sour grapes). Various spices could be added along with salt and sugar. Today everyone knows the mustard of Dyon, the capital city of Burgundy, but few people outside of Belgium have heard of the dark brown, rather potent mustard that is produced in Ghent by the House of Tierenteyn. This is a mustard of exceptional flavour. When its aroma hits your nostrils, your eyes water and your taste buds awaken in expectation. The House of Tierenteyn is located in the heart of medieval Ghent in the Groentenmarkt (the market square where farmers come to sell their produce.) It is a tiny shop, tucked between an old little bakery and a grocery store. It has been there since 1790 and, to this day, sells mustard only of its own manufacture-the famous Tierenteyn mustard of Ghent. When you step inside. you feel that here time has truly stood still. Your eyes rest in wonder and appreciation on the neat rows of blue spice-filled porcelain jars on the shelves and below them, the wooden barrels of freshly made mustard. At the same time, your head is filled with the aromas of nutmeg, bayleaves, cinnamon, and, of course, mustard. In this shop, Tierenteyn mustard is produced from a recipe that dates back to 1790. And while anyone who knows enough to come here can buy their mustard, the exact combination of herbs and spices is a secret, guarded as carefully as a pot of real gold. The pungent Tierenteyn mustard has inspired many cooks. It is a traditional condiment to be served with pates, terrines, charcuterie, and a variety of cold and hot meats. It is also very successfully incorporated as a flavouring in recipes using rabbit, lamb, pork, poultry, and even vegetables and fish.