Ketchup fans not welcome: The National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin

MustardMuseumOutsideCropped

Holy Shrine of Mustard Pilgrims

Yes, Virginia, there really IS a National Mustard Museum . Located in Middleton, WI (just outside Madison), the museum showcases Mustardmania! You’ll find a treasure trove of mustard pots, a mustard vending machine, mustard-related film and video clips, vintage containers of mustard plasters, poultices, and baths—indeed, All Things Mustard. And, of course, there are the mustards themselves, THOUSANDS of them! A wall rack displays many different mustards from each of the 50 states. Separate cases invite you to look at mustards from around the world. And, should you find yourself in need of the restroom, be rest(room) assured that hand soap is available. However, it’s in a little (clean!) mustard squeeze bottle.

MustardMuseumVendingCropped

Well, that 3 PM trip to the vending machine would certainly be less caloric if mustards were your only options.
MustardMuseumRestroomSoapCropped
Maybe I should keep the hand soap in a Plochman’s squeeze bottle, too–it IS my favorite yellow mustard!

Mustard may well be the world’s most popular condiment. Seeds from different Brassica (brown or black seeds) or Sinapis (yellow seeds) plants have been used for millennia as flavoring agents. Indeed, references to mustard seeds can be found in the Christian Bible. Prepared mustard, the condiment many of us know and love, is a mixture of these seeds, in whole or ground form, plus some sort of liquid (e.g. water, vinegar, wine) and possibly other flavorings, in a paste form of varying thicknesses.

You can blame the formerly (and, apparently, currently) hapless Boston Red Sox for the founding of the National Mustard Museum. Dejected after they lost the World Series in 1986, Barry Levenson, an Assistant Attorney General for Wisconsin, wandered the aisles of a grocery store in an effort to assuage his pain when he had an epiphany—he was going to collect mustards! This gave him a way of redirecting his baseball sadness into a new hobby and a new lease on life. Well, things spiraled and on April 5, 1992 Levenson opened the National Mustard Museum in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Years later (in 2009), with both the collection and the museum’s popularity growing, it relocated to its more spacious current spot in Middleton, Wisconsin, just outside Madison.

MustardMuseumUSMustardsCropped

Part of the Wall Of United States Mustards

Does a visitor to the museum have an opportunity to actually taste any mustards? The answer is a resounding YES! The gift shop, where one can buy mustards (along with other souvenirs and accoutrements) offers samples of many brands and varieties. You can sample traditional styles, such as Dijons or deli mustards, as well as exotica (I sampled one flavored with garam masala, an Indian spice mixture—very good!) You can sample the gold medal winners of the World Wide Mustard Competition (for all categories), as well as the runners-up. And if the mustard you are interested in purchasing isn’t set up for tasting, just mosey on over to the Tasting Bar, where the staff have open jars of all the mustards for sale.

So, who should visit the National Mustard Museum? Obviously, any mustard nut (not perjorative—I count myself as one!) But anyone who gets a kick out of Quirky Americana shouldn’t miss this place either. Admission is free, though a $2.00 donation (as of July 2014) is suggested. Props to Mr. Levenson for not only creating this place, but for maintaining and expanding it!

National Mustard Day is August 2, 2014. To help celebrate this most sacred of mustard holidays, one of my next posts will feature a recipe for making your own mustard!

MustardShopping

Of course, I had to do a little shopping! From left to right: Edmond Fallot Walnut Dijon, Shemp’s Old Fashioned Beer Mustard, Edmond Fallot Provencal Dijon Mustard (with red peppers), Norman Bishop Garlic and Dill Mustard, Pommery Moustarde de Meaux.
Share

Blueberry Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

This is quite delightful on a salad with lettuce, goat cheese and almonds. Makes about ½ cup.

What You’ll Need

  • jar with a lid
  • measuring spoons

Ingredients

  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons blueberry vinegar (see previous post for the recipe)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 3 pinches salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Making the Vinaigrette

  1. Put the blueberry vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, salt, and pepper. Close the jar and shake vigorously, until the salt is dissolved and the rest of the ingredients are well mixed.
  2. Add the oil and shake until thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Taste. Season with more salt and pepper, if necessary.

This makes a tart dressing, with an upfront vinegar flavor. If you wish to tone down the vinegar or you prefer an oilier dressing, add another 2-3 tablespoons of oil (based on your taste preferences) and shake the jar until it is well mixed.

Share

Make Your Own Blueberry Vinegar

Use some of those ripe, delicious Michigan blueberries to make an infused blueberry vinegar! It’ll add a nice touch to salad dressings or marinades.

What You’ll Need

  • jar with lid, (a 2-cup capacity)
  • another clean jar
  • fork for mashing
  • cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer (like a tea strainer)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup blueberries, rinsed and dried
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar

How to make the vinegar

  1. Place the blueberries in the jar.
  2. Using the fork, mash the blueberries until no whole ones remain.
  3. Add the vinegar to the jar.
  4. Shake the jar, then set it in a cool, dark place.
  5. Shake the jar once a day for 5-6 days to infuse and distribute the blueberries in the vinegar.
  6. Strain the vinegar into a clear jar through a triple layer of cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer, discarding the solids.

Blueberry_Vinegar_2

Just waiting to be added to a vinaigrette!
Share

Feeling Blue..berry

Blueberries, of which there are many varieties, are perennials native to North America. Highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum), so-called because they are found on shrubs that can reach as high as 12 feet (4 meters), are found in the eastern part of North America, including the Great Lakes region. This variety is the most common kind cultivated for commercial purposes. Not only a healthy food (supplying good amounts of Vitamin C and fiber), blueberries are also delicious, amenable to dishes both sweet and savory.

When I think of blueberries, I think of Michigan. I also think of scones and muffins and pies and tarts, but yes, I think of Michigan, too. Indeed, Michigan is the top blueberry-producing state in the US (in terms of acres harvested), with Georgia, Oregon, and New Jersey following behind. Traditionally, blueberries grew well in humid climates with chilly winters and milder summers, although some hybrids have been developed that can be grown in warmer climates (hence the Georgia blueberries). Fine, but just give me Michigan blueberries!

BlueberryBushes4

Blueberry bushes in Ottawa County, Michigan

Why Michigan? Specifically, why southwestern Michigan (the locus of the commercial blueberry industry in Michigan)? Well, it boils down to physical geography—the soils are acidic, important for blueberry health. Blueberries prefer soils in the 4.0-5.0 range, which this part of Michigan can supply. Additionally, the temperatures are low enough for blueberries (winters can get mighty cold), yet are moderated by the waters of Lake Michigan1; the lake waters also serve to keep the spring temperatures cooler longer, which helps blueberry plants avoid frost damage (they bloom later). A third reason is the soils of southwest Michigan are somewhat sandy and wet—remember from your geography classes that this region is proximate to Lake Michigan, so one would expect some sandiness in the soil. This hat trick gives southwestern Michigan a prime spot for commercial blueberry agriculture. Indeed, Michigan’s Blueberry Country is centered on the five southwestern lake-hugging counties of Allegan, Berrien, Muskegon, Ottawa, and Van Buren. Drive through them and you are sure to encounter neat rows of muffin futures!

BlueberryCounties2

Michigan’s Primary Blueberry-Producing Counties

  1. Berrien
  2. Van Buren
  3. Allegan
  4. Ottawa
  5. Muskegon

Oddly, the blueberry industry actually began in New Jersey, where Elizabeth White, in partnership with Dr. Frederick Coville, a USDA botanist, developed a cultivatable blueberry plant. In Michigan, the commercial industry took off after the 1920s, following a successful test planting at Michigan State University. Blueberry farming has increased almost tenfold from 1950, when 2200 acres were devoted to blueberry cultivation; as of 2012, approximately 21,000 acres hold commercial blueberry plants.2

I, for one, am thankful for this deliciousness. A latecomer to The Pleasures of the Blueberry, I now look forward to the time I can get Michigan blueberries in the supermarket (and I do wait for the season). I eat them out of hand, I cook with them, can with them, bake with them, and freeze them for some wintertime smoothies (and I’m almost out of the ones I froze last year!) I’ll be sharing some blueberry recipes next time here on Flyovertapas. In the meantime, if you’d like to can some blueberry jam (and blueberries do have a fair amount of pectin), just follow the recipe for classic strawberry jam, replacing the strawberries with blueberries.

1Meteorology/climatology tidbit: large bodies of water keep the temperatures in adjacent land areas milder than temperatures in the middle of large land masses far from water. Coastal locations tend to have smaller annual temperature ranges (difference between the warmest and coldest months) than locations in the interior of land masses. That’s a phenomenon called continentality, a fact you can impress others with at your next cocktail party.

2http://blueberries.msu.edu/uploads/files/The_Michigan_Blueberry_Industry_2012_MSUE_online.pdf. This is an excellent source of information about the industry in Michigan.

Share

Packet-grilled Lake Whitefish

serves 3-4

Coregonus clupeaformis, more commonly known as lake whitefish, is a type of whitefish found in North America’s Great Lakes (and other inland lakes). These cool water fish are important commercially in the Great Lakes. Initially feeding on plankton (hey, who doesn’t love plankton!), lake whitefish switch their diets to small animals such as snails once they grow to a certain length.

This mild-flavored fish is a protein powerhouse, with 28 grams in a 4-ounce portion, with about 10 grams of fat.

It’s easy to prepare lake whitefish on the grill. I like to put it in a foil packet with some butter and herbs—cleanup is simple, too!

Packet-grilled lake whitefish
What you’ll need

  • a grill
  • paper towels
  • knife
  • cutting board
  • aluminum foil

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh lake whitefish, boneless and skin-on
  • butter, melted
  • flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped*
  • chives, chopped*
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper

Making the Packet-Grilled Lake Whitefish

  1. READ THE RECIPE
  2. Prepare your grill to medium/medium-high (a 5-Mississippi count with a charcoal grill, which is what I use)**
  3. Meanwhile, prepare your fish by rinsing it and patting it dry with paper towels.
  4. Cut 3 or 4 pieces of aluminum foil—these will be the packets. Brush a little butter on the matte side of the foil.
  5. Cut your fish into 3-4 equal pieces, placing each (skin side down) onto a piece of foil.
  6. Brush each piece of fish with butter (1/2 to 1 tablespoon each), then season each with salt and pepper.
  7. Add 1-2 tablespoons of chopped herbs on top of the fish.
  8. Drizzle each piece of fish with some lemon juice.
  9. Seal the packets and then, using your knife, piece the packets 2-3 times near the TOP. This is to allow some steam to escape.
  10. Place packet on grill and close grill cover.
  11. After about 15 minutes, check to see if the fish is done. If it flakes easily, separating with just a nudge of a fork, it’s ready. If there is still some resistance, close the packet and let grill for another 5 minutes.
  12. Serve and eat. You may wish to add a little more lemon juice if desired.

This will work for other mild whitefish as well.

*You can use any combination of herbs that suit you, such as dill or thyme. If using thyme, though, use 1 sprig per piece of fish.

**If using a charcoal grill, hold your hand 4 inches above the grate and start counting. If you can say “Mississippi” 5 times before it gets too hot and you have to pull your hand away, the fire is ready.

Share