The next time you slather standard yellow mustard on your hot dog before the big bowl game or garnish your football party buffet with Dijon, try a different sort of mustard.
If you walk the mustard aisle of any store, Dijon mustard is everywhere, a testament, perhaps, to the popularity of all those Grey Poupon commercials. But lingering alongside the yellow and Dijon is a new standout: Dusseldorf, an oft-overlooked style that has multiple culinary uses beyond garnishing a hot dog.
“Dusseldorf has much better flavor than Dijon,” says chef Walter Staib of Philadelphia's City Tavern restaurant. “But it doesn't have the sex appeal of Dijon or the pedigree.”
“I cook with mustard all the time. The Dusseldorf has more flavor,” adds Staib, host of the public television series “A Taste of History.” Yet even this German-born chef was forced to switch to Dijon when writing his “Black Forest Cuisine” cookbook. Dijon was more widely available, and his editors insisted on it.
“There's a boldness,” he says of Dusseldorf. “It's better for cooking, for salads.”
Like Dijon, Dusseldorf has many culinary uses. Yet it is Dijon that gets much of the respect and supermarket shelf space these days. But that may change, at least on a governmental level.
Like Dijon in France, Dusseldorf is an actual place, a city on the Rhine River in western Germany. An application was recently filed with the European Commission to award an appellation-like protected geographical indication status to “Dusseldorfer mostert.” What that means, essentially, is a mustard labeled as Dusseldorf (or Dusseldorfer) has to be made there according to specific regulations, at least as far as sales in the European Union are concerned.
As defined in the application, Dusseldorf's mustard “consists exclusively of ground brown and yellow mustard seeds, unfiltered spirit vinegar produced in Dusseldorf, the special lime and mineral rich water of Dusseldorf, salt, sugar and spices.” It has “a bright creamy consistency and a malt brown color” and contains “tiny pieces of husks (specks).” And the flavor? “Hot, malty, spicy,” which the application credits to the triple grinding of the mustard husks.
Judging by what's on the shelves over here, U.S. mustard producers have differing ideas of what Dusseldorf mustard is.
“It may be a smooth brown mustard or more grainy or spicier,” says Barry M. Levenson, founder and curator of the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wis. “Your Dusseldorf and my Dusseldorf could be totally different.”
No wonder Olds Products Co., the Pleasant Prairie, Wis., maker of Koops' Dusseldorf mustard, tries to help consumers with the descriptions: “a smooth German style mustard” and “America's Brat Mustard.”
While the mustard is great on brats and hot dogs and sausages, don't feel limited. Marlena Spieler, a California-born cookbook author now living in Waterlooville, England, reaches for Dusseldorf mustard when she wants to give a “subtly different flavor” to a dish.
“It's always strong and not sweet, just the way I like it,” she says.
For Spieler, who thinks even the word “Dusseldorf” is cool, the mustard works with tuna, burgers, chicken salad and grilled cheeses of all types.
Dusseldorf can be darker in color than its Dijon counterpart, but Staib, for one, doesn't believe that's much of a problem, especially in a sauce that can be lightened with sour cream or another ingredient.
“Close your eyes,” he says, “and you would think it was a very strong Dijon mustard.”