What to replace mustard with in times of shortage?

Without it, salad dressing and mayonnaise would be nothing. It is to rabbit what red wine is to beef, and it brilliantly spice up summer tomato pies. As you will have understood, it is mustard that we are talking about today, the great absence from our supermarket shelves.

A faithful companion of French cuisine, it was already used in Antiquity on the great Roman and Greek tables, for its fiery flavor and its ability to spice up dishes.

But it’s in the XIVe century that it imposed itself within French gastronomy. A symbol of wealth and refinement, mustard takes pride of place on the table of the Dukes of Burgundy, making the profession of mustard maker a prestigious profession.

What happened to the mustard?

They may originate from Europe and North Africa, yet Canada is today the world’s leading producer of mustard seeds. Nearly 80% of the seeds used today in French mustards are imported from the North American continent.

With the start of the war in Ukraine last February, it was easy to attribute this shortage to the crisis. However, the scourge currently affecting the production of the yellow condiment has nothing to do with geopolitical news, but rather with climate change.

Canada, ravaged by droughts last summer, saw its production of mustard seeds fall by 28% according to a report by its Ministry of Agriculture, and then doubled its prices.

Horseradish can be combined with fresh cream to replace mayonnaise or used in sauce dishes.

Add to this inflation and the crisis in Ukraine, which affect the cost of glass jars and vinegar, mustard makers are now no longer able to keep up with demand.

As of today, one thing is certain: the mustard shortage is far from over and will continue until the next harvest season of 2022-2023, if however the dry spells do not reoccur this year in the West. canadian.

So, if mustard is not about to make a comeback in our supermarkets, what alternatives can we find to spice up our dishes? We interviewed the starred chef Adrien Descouls, at the head of the Origines restaurant in the Pays d’Issoire, who offered us a world tour of condiments.

The local alternative: horseradish

Very popular throughout northern Europe, horseradish is a cousin root of black radish, but also of wasabi. It is a forgotten vegetable and very little used in France.

“Horseradish is very versatile”explains chef Adrien Descouls. “I even want to say that we can go so far as to make a dessert out of it. For example, I make tofu from it.”

Its spicy and peppery taste makes it the ideal replacement for mustard. In the form of a creamy sauce, horseradish can be combined with fresh cream to replace mayonnaise, or used in sauce dishes.

In England, horseradish sauce was a staple of the working class throughout the 19th century.e century, and is now part of traditional British cuisine. It is eaten with oysters or roast beef. Scandinavian countries also use horseradish sauce, with smoked fish such as salmon, adding a little dill.

Horseradish is produced mainly in Hungary, Europe’s leading exporter, in the northern Great Plain, located in the east of the country, and is grown from spring to autumn.

Be careful though, this alternative remains reserved for fans of strong condiments. “Horseradish is the wasabi of Europe. Already at the olfactory level, it is a root that has very pungent aerial vapors»warns the chef.

The alternative from Asia: wasabi

Coming from Japan, wasabi is a very popular condiment in most Asian countries. Also known as “Japanese horseradish”, it is a root with a pungent and powerful taste. “It’s even stronger than horseradish, but its flavors are very complex. And you can use it in a lot of ways.”

A demographic problem leaves wasabi producers without buyers.

To reduce its spiciness, it is possible to mix it with fresh cream and use it as mayonnaise, or add balsamic vinegar and oil for a spicy vinaigrette!

However, this plant, sometimes nicknamed Japanese green gold, is also facing production problems. The regions of Shizuoka and Nagano, in the center of the Japanese peninsula, account for almost 90% of the production of sawa-wasabi (“stream wasabi”) in the country, while hatake-wasabi (“field wasabi”) is 60% produced in the Iwate region, a little further north in Japan.

These cultures, as the New York Times explained last February, located on the valleys of the mountains, encounter serious problems of erosion linked to climate change. In addition, producers face a demographic problem, caused by the flight of young generations to the cities, which leaves wasabi producers without buyers and forces them to close their operations once they retire.

The alternative from Africa: chilli paste

“Coming from Central Africa, there is also chilli paste. You can make a mayonnaise by putting it in place of mustard, and you will have a spicy mayonnaise”, explains the chef. The advantage is that it is possible to find it in most supermarkets, at an affordable price.

If you are looking for mustard for its binding aspect, it is possible to use a very simple ingredient: starch.

For the most sensitive palates, there is also sweet pepper. “You don’t have to go for super hot peppers. Besides, it doesn’t necessarily make much sense. A sweet chilli paste can really replace mustard in many recipes.

The alternative from the United States: barbecue sauce

To enhance meat, what could be better than replacing mustard with barbecue sauce? Chef Adrien Descouls insists, it has to be “true”. “It doesn’t have to be liquid at all. You have to find a thick, Texan-style barbecue sauce that is full-bodied.”

The surprising alternative: potato pulp or rice starch

If you are looking for mustard for its binding aspect, it is possible to use a very simple ingredient: starch.

Faced with the uncertain future of mustard, many alternatives exist.

“It’s a little more complex, it requires a little more know-how”, explains the chef. “You have to manage the incorporation well, but otherwise it works with a lot of ingredients: chickpea water or rice water. As long as it’s starched, it works.”

The do-it-yourself alternative: home-made

Despite the general shortage, it is still possible to find mustard seeds in most grocery stores. “Making your own mustard is easy with a good apple vinegar. We can manage to have a result of good quality, artisanal, and it is easy to implement. You just have to be patient, to let the fermentation take place slowly.”

This alternative, both economical and ecological, is an opportunity, as often during periods of shortage, to understand what is hidden behind the recipes of the industrial products that we consume on a daily basis.

Caused by the droughts of last summer in Canada, the shortage currently experienced by France and other consumer countries of the yellow condiment will not be resolved in the near future. Fortunately, faced with the uncertain future of mustard, many alternatives exist. From the heart of Europe to the tip of Asia via Texas, new flavors are therefore available to compensate for the absence of the favorite condiment of the French.

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