Christopher Kimball: Can you believe there’s actually any difference between mustards? I guess there are. [Jack nods, blinks.] Some are vinegary. Some are more mustardy. Some are more like yellow mustard. Some are coarse. But we’re doing Dijon mustards today [camera pans to lineup of four mustard samples in front of Christopher, lineup of mustard jars in front of Jack] and one of the interesting facts is almost none of these brands are actually made in Dijon or made in France anywhere, right?
Jack Bishop: Even some of the brands with French names aren’t even being made in France anymore. They’re being made in the United States. They’re being made in Canada.
CPK: [sarcastically] Shocking.
JB: So we had 22 tasters, eight brands of Dijon mustard. [CPK begins tasting the samples] Now, Dijon mustard starts with either black or brown mustards seeds. There are three kinds: black, brown, and yellow. Ballpark mustard is made with yellow seeds, which are much milder. The brown and the black have much more heat in them. The other ingredient is some sort of acid, either white wine or vinegar. The heat in these mustards is that sort of nasal heat, the… [CPK exhales hotly] But it’s going to… it’s going to fade, Chris. It’s that horseradish heat, as opposed to the chili heat, and so it hits you in the nose, and then it quickly fades away. Our tasters really liked heat. And I know you have a very sensitive palate and that sometimes you don’t like spice…
CPK: I’m not a very sensitive guy, but my palate’s… [both chuckle]
JB: But you don’t like spicy things. But we really like the much more robust, spicy mustards. One of the reasons we like the spicier ones is because thinking about how they’re going to be used, in that mustard is going to go on a ham and cheese sandwich and that you really need it to have some personality and that if it doesn’t have much heat, it’s going to die. [CPK continues to taste.] Big difference in acidity levels. Some of them were really kind of pickle-y and tart, and some of them really were very low acid. And we found that there’s a direct correlation between acidity and heat. There’s actually a enzyme in the mustard seeds which is released when they’re ground called myrosinase, which is what activates the heat in the mustard. And if there’s to much acid, the myrosinase can’t do its work. And so the more acid, the less heat.
CPK: Wasn’t myrosinase an Athenian playwright [laughs], or was… I’m getting confused. It must by the heat of the mustard.
JB: So we liked the hotter mustards, which means we also liked the least acidic mustards.
CPK: That one’s pretty good. It’s got good heat.
JB: Okay. And are you tasting anything besides heat? I mean, there’s salt levels. Some of them are made with spices, so you’re picking up hints of clove or smokiness. [CPK takes a sip of water] There’s sort of fruity flavors that some of our tasters were discerning in some of these.
CPK: [glances skeptically at the camera] I’m tasting mustard, and there’s supposed to be fruity flavors? Are you kidding me?
JB: Subtle fruity flavors. You know, a little essence…
CPK: [eyes wide] “Little raspberry, sir?” Did people really pick out fruity flavors?
CPK: Some of our tasters make this stuff up just to…
JB: Well, in your defense, you do this very quickly. Our tasters can spend as much time as they want between samples, and I’m kind of rushing you, as I always do, to, you know, [slaps hands rhythmically] taste, taste, taste, taste, taste.
CPK: Jack’s being very gentle on me. Have you noticed? [puts second sample bowl down] I like this one.
CPK: It feels like the coarsest of them, has nice heat, the horseradish. I kind of like that one. [CPK tastes third sample, hacks and coughs dramatically] This is… [laughs] he finally killed me, after all these years. I would say this is the hottest one.
CPK: [points to third sample] I like this a lot. [points to second sample] This one has other things going on. It seems a little more complex than that. [points to first sample] I don’t like this one at all. [points to fourth sample] This one’s okay. So I would say it’s down to these two. [touches two middle samples]
CPK: [tastes third sample] This has got more… [looks up] What happens to your stomach when you eat three tablespoons of mustard, anything I should know now, or will I find out in about ten minutes?
JB: I don’t know. I think there might be, you know, some sort of diet regimen in there.
CPK: If one is looking for a clean, really bright flavor with a lot of heat, I would go with this one. [puts down third sample]
CPK: [tastes second sample] If you’re looking for a more rounded, horseradishy thing [waves spoon around in a tiny circle], I would go… I like both of these. This has got more different kinds of flavor than this one. So I would probably actually pick this one. [points to second sample] It’s a little more interesting. [points to third sample] This has more heat. It’s a little cleaner tasting.
JB: [raises eyebrows expectantly] So you want to start with what you liked or what you didn’t like?
CPK: [unveils first sample] I didn’t like this one.
JB: That was our loser, Plochman’s. It’s an American brand. The big complaint, which was the same complaint you had, is it didn’t really have any heat — sissy mustard, as described by our tasters.
CPK: [melodramatically sweeps fake sweat off of brow] Whew, man.
JB: So I’m glad you didn’t pick that one, Chris.
CPK: Okay, this one… I liked both of these. What’s this? [unveils second sample]
JB: French’s. That actually was towards the bottom of the pack. [CPK grits teeth] We felt like that one was too vinegary.
CPK: [waves hand about] It was a little more complex.
JB: [grins] Well, or maybe you just like tart, sour things, Chris.
CPK: This one I also liked, and that… [unveils third sample]
JB: This was our runner-up. This is Maille, which is an old French brand that’s actually made in Canada. [CPK inspects jar]
CPK: So this is our winner? [unveils fourth sample]
JB: This is our winner. This is Grey Poupon…
CPK: Really. [retastes sample]
JB: … which is actually made in the United States, and we felt like this was the hottest mustard, lowest acidity, had the most nasal heat, really good, clean flavor. And I’m trying to convince you, and you’re not agreeing.
CPK: [pointing to Maille, the third sample] This has more heat.
JB: Well, the heat differences between these two and the last place were pretty significant. I will concede that the heat differences among the first place and the second place were relatively small.
CPK: Well, there we are, a small winner. So the answer is no one liked the Plochman’s, and the runner-up was the Maille. And this is made… where is this made?
CPK: Made in Canada. So the runner-up was Maille, which I liked, and the winner was Grey Poupon.
View the full report of our Dijon Mustard Tasting
Captioned by Media Access Group at WGBH
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