Friday, December 17, 2010

Mean Mr. Mustard Man: Homemade Holidays from the Spice Store

DEC 031

One errand that I never resisted running as a child was a trip to the health food store. Located in a trailer behind our drive through bank, my mom and I would go to fill up our tamari bottles, buy whole grains, and, best of all, stock up on bulk seasonings. I still fondly recall sniffing the various jars of familiar and unfamiliar herbs and spices and sampling different spice blends.

It’s therefore unsurprising that one of my favorite stores in Chicago is The Spice House. Owned by friend, Patty Hurd, it’s an emporium bursting with sweet scents and spicy aromas. As a mom, I’m so pleased that Little Locathor shares my affinity for spice stores and never complains about our visits there.

Given our shared love, I thought it would be fun this year to take inspiration for our Christmas gifts from the spice store. In the past, our edible holiday gifts have been on the sweet side. We’ve made a hot chocolate mix with homemade marshmallows, jars of cranberry curd, and bags full of granola. Sweet gifts are great, but they tend to have limited utility. This year’s gifts, Thor’s Spicy Mustard and Vanilla, will hopefully provide months of tasteful joy for their recipients.

Both recipes are extremely simple to make. The mustard requires lots of measuring and scooping, great fun for kids. We then pack the jars and bottles in old berry boxes saved from our farmers’ market purchases. Instead of filling the boxes up with packing paper, we used some sweet as candy Satsuma tangerines. We then create tags from holiday cards received in years past. A gift that’s environmentally kind and delicious!

What edible gifts are you making with your kids?

Thor’s Spicy Mustard
Makes 6 4-ounce jars

1 cup brown mustard seeds
¼ cup yellow mustard seeds
1 ¼ cups white wine vinegar
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup mustard powder
1 cup water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Combine the mustard seeds in a medium bowl with the white wine and vinegar. Let sit, covered, at room temperature for 2 days. Whisk together the mustard powder and water and let sit for ½ hour. Scrape the soaked seeds into the bowl of a food processor, add all the remaining ingredients, and puree until the mustard is creamy. Package in 4 ounce jars.

Makes 1 4-oz. bottle, increase accordingly

1 vanilla bean
½ cup vodka or cheap brandy

Push the vanilla bean into the bottle. Cover with vodka or brandy. Note on the gift tag that the vanilla should be steeped for two months.


  1. Is Mr. Mustard Man the long lost cousin of Sardine Man?

  2. No, Sardine Man tortures little boys and girls with visions of sardine-filled dishes. Mean Mr. Mustard Man isn't quite as mean as that.


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