Don’t judge me too much for this admission, but Jeff and I can never finish a bottle of wine at home in an evening. Out with friends, we can of course make a bottle disappear and even out to dinner just the two of us, we can generally make our way through a bottle over the course of the meal. But if we open a bottle at home just to drink during the evening, ten times out of ten about half of the bottle goes into the fridge. (Are we alone in this? I think probably not.) The real problem is that once it goes into the fridge, we often forget about it until it’s on the edge of undrinkable, or a few days past that point. To deal with this, I often look for recipes that can use up overdue wine.
Let me also say that I do not necessarily follow the rule that you should only cook with wines that you would drink. Yes, I only buy wines that I want to drink and when I use wine in a recipe I am generally pouring from the bottle into the pot or pan or bowl. But, I am more than happy to use wines that have sat in the fridge long enough to take on a vinegary taste and would not necessarily be “drinkable” anymore. For more preparations, the added acidity works well and no one will know that the wine is past its prime. Plus, then you don’t have to drink it or throw it away. Win-win.
Alright, so let’s get on to what I used this wine for. Dijon mustard. Yup, homemade mustard. I make a fair number of condiments at home but mustard is just about the easiest. At its most basic, mustard is a combination of mustard powder and vinegar, stirred together and simmered in varying quantities to achieve the desired consistency. Whole grain mustard involves soaking mustard seeds in vinegar and/or alcohol for a few days to soften them and then blending that mixture, optionally with additional liquid or spices. What makes Dijon mustard different is that it uses a significant amount of white wine as well as vinegar to soak the seeds. Why is this not just called “White wine mustard?” I have no idea. But it is milder than most mustards which means you can eat it with just about anything.
When you make this mustard (because you really should, homemade mustard is delicious) don’t be discouraged when it is unpleasantly bitter right after you make it. Mustard seeds are bitter and right after they’re blended the bitter flavor remains in the finished product, but it dissipates within a day which is perfect since the mustard needs to be refrigerated before you eat it. Spicy mustard is good but hot mustard – the temperature kind of hot – is just weird. It’s also good to know that mustard keeps just about forever in the fridge. Between the high acidity, the natural antibacterial properties of mustard, and the fridge temperature, you don’t have to worry about it going bad. Not only that, but mustard is a great natural emulsifier – add a spoonful to vinegar and oil and give it a shake to quickly throw together a basic vinaigrette that will stay emulsified for a while.
¼ cup yellow mustard seeds (brown works too although they are spicier, or use a combination)
½ cup white wine
¼ cup vinegar (any kind, I use red wine because that’s what I have)
½ an onion, finely diced
1 tsp kosher salt
Combine the mustard seeds and vinegar in a small non-reactive container. Let sit for at least 24 hours and up to one week.
Heat a small saucepan over low heat and add the onions. Add the salt and cook, stirring to prevent any burning, until the onions are soft and translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the vinegar and the mustard seed and wine mixture.
Using a food processer, blender, or immersion blender, process the mixture into a thin paste which should take a few minutes. The longer you process it, the more uniform the texture – if you prefer a more grainy texture, don’t process it for as long. If the mustard is too thick, add more vinegar or water. Taste for seasoning and add salt or vinegar if needed – be aware that it will be unpleasantly bitter but that will go away within a day. Refrigerate at least overnight before using.