Mention ‘Dijon’ and some people will immediately think of mustard. Dijon is not only the capital of Burgundy, but it is also the world’s mustard capital.
The history of Dijon mustard begins in the culinary wonderland of Burgundy, France – a region known primarily for its exquisite wines. The Romans were the first to introduce mustard seeds to this fertile region and by the Middle Ages, abundant mustard plants covered the area’s hills right along with the lush grapevines.
In the 14th century, the Dukes of Burgundy were said to complement their lavish feasts with mustard, which by that time, was a highly regarded condiment. But it wasn’t until the 18th century that the recipe for the Dijon mustard we know today was developed.
Interestingly enough, the term ‘Dijon’ is not a reference to the city, but actually refers to the recipe which dates back to 1752. The creation of Dijon mustard can be accredited to Jean Naigeon. Naigeon revolutionized the original mustard recipe by substituting verjuice (the sour juice of unripe grapes) for the vinegar traditionally used in the making of mustard. The result was a smoother, less acerbic mustard which was immediately embraced by French mustard lovers.
A century later, Dijon secured its place at the top of the mustard world when moutardier Maurice Grey invented a machine which automated the processing of mustard seeds. He then teamed up with Auguste Poupon and together they formed the Grey Poupon mustard company which later merged with Maille, another well-known French mustard company.
La Boutique Maille, located on 32 rue de la Liberté in Dijon, is a mecca for mustard lovers. Its ever-changing, seasonal assortment of mustards includes wonderful flavors such as au bleu, sun- dried tomato, Esplette pepper and Thai spices. With its beautiful displays of mustards, fine vinegars and oils, the elegant establishment is a culinary showroom in its own right.
Today there are strict laws regulating the production of Dijon mustard. Only black or brown mustard seeds are to be used, and the production also involves a different method specifically used for this type of mustard. First, the mustard seeds are soaked in water until they swell up. Then, the seed coats are filtered out and blended with wine, wine vinegar or verjuice. Flavor additions such as the ones mentioned above are not to bear the name ‘Dijon’. These laws, however, say nothing about the origin of the mustard seeds. Most of the mustard fields around Dijon have been given over to more profitable crops such as colza, used to make corn oil and therefore, over ninety percent of the seeds used for Dijon mustard are imported from Canada.
Dijon mustard has a leading role in vinaigrettes, but you can also add it to soups, sauces and marinades. It’s a perfect dip for tiny squares of aged cheese, and it even enhances your quiches with that extra bit of zingy flavor. In short, there are enough reasons to indulge in one of the world’s finest condiments – a product that rightly deserves a place in every kitchen.