Monday, September 2, 2013

Searching for mustard in Dijon, France

Maille Mustard boutique in Dijon.

Mustard, Crème de cassis and wine - that's what popped into my mind when we finally decided that Dijon would be a good place to spend the night on our way home from Switzerland last weekend. Given my mother's penchant for all kinds of mustard and the fact that an entire shelf of her refrigerator was formerly reserved for the exclusive storage of this yellow condiment, visiting a mustard factory was at the top of my "to do" list. The only problem, as a search of the internet quickly revealed, is that Dijon's oldest mustard factory was forced to close its doors in 2009 after demand for mustard declined in France.

A subsequent search of the internet uncovered a post by fellow blogger Kallie, who had the good fortune to participate in a 45 minute mustard making workshop at La Cuisine de Madeleine in July. According to Kallie, it was one of the highlights of her recent trip to France. Excited by the prospect of learning the traditional way to grind black mustard seeds and verjuice (or in this case Chardonnay) into a spicy yellow sauce, I was disappointed when we arrived in Dijon shortly after La Cuisine de Madeleine had already closed its doors for the weekend.

Determined to do some advance planning for an upcoming trip to Dijon in October, we went to the Dijon Tourist Office to ask for more information. When the officer revealed that the only way for us to see the production of mustard would be to travel to the Fallot Mustard Mill in nearby Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, I couldn't help replying that it seemed a bit odd that there wasn't a single, solitary mustard factory that we could visit in Dijon. She agreed.

My quest took another twist when I was confronted by jar after jar of mustard all claiming that their first name was "Dijon". Baffled by this designation, I asked the shop assistant if any certification, such as "controlled designation of origin" (AOC), exists for Dijon mustard. She leaned towards me and whispered in a low voice that any condiment company can call its product "Dijon mustard" as long as they follow the traditional recipe. She also divulged that 95% of the seeds used to produce Dijon mustard are imported. It turns out that a whopping 80% of the seeds come from Canada, while the United States, Hungary, Romania and Denmark provide the rest of the seeds. Directing me towards a jar of Edmond Fallot's mustard with a discrete red label, she explained that it was made with mustard seeds grown exclusively in Burgundy and a white wine produced from the Aligoté grape variety in Burgundy. While I hadn't found real Dijon mustard, I was content to take some jars of authentic Burgundy mustard home with me. The next time I'm in Dijon, I'll have to take a course to learn how to make it myself!

There are lots of shops where you can buy mustard, Crème de cassis, Nonnettes and other regional specialities in Dijon. After paying considerably more than the market price for a large pot of mustard at one touristy store, we decided that we preferred the service and prices at Bourgogne Street. It's conveniently located at 61 rue de la Liberté, Dijon.

At odds with my findings in Dijon, my internet search also uncovered the news that mustard is the world's fastest growing condiment. Here's an excerpt from a July 2013 Yahoo Finance article, "The Yellow Commodity Hotter Than Gold": Among the varieties now on store shelves: Dusseldorf-style mustards (“Move over Dijon,” declared one food writer last year), fruity mustards (blueberry, anyone?) and the super-coarse Tin Mustard (it’s got a texture reminiscent of caviar, say fans). Perhaps this explains why Dijon mustard isn't doing so well in France or abroad.

Please click here to see photos of some of the mustard I spotted in Dijon.


Flags flying on the Rue de la Liberté, right next to the Maille mustard boutique.

7 comments:

  1. This all looks a little Disney-esque, or maybe it's just my attitude today.

    I used to doctor the mustard we used in Montauk on steak and other red meats--I'd add Colman's mustard powder to mustard to make it even more intense. Delicious.

    And I'm not sure what the Aligote sentence is about. Is it missing a period or something?

    jxg

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    1. Mmm, enhancing mustard with mustard powder sounds delicious! A Japanese friend told me that she always combines wasabi powder with water to make "fresh" wasabi at home because it's more powerful. It must be true for mustard, too. Thanks for the tip!

      I didn't find Dijon Disney-esque, although I can see how you could get that idea from the photos I posted. It's a very "real" small city.

      Sorry that the Aligote sentence was confusing. My brain is still on vacation! I edited it to make it more understandable.

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  2. I got to go to the Fallot place in Beaune. Very interesting and too bad that they didn't get an AOC designation before the world figured out that there was money to be made on Dijon mustard.

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    1. Thanks for telling me to ask about the origin of the mustard seeds on FB and steering me in the right direction! It resulted in some interesting interactions with locals in Dijon. I really hope that I can go to the Fallot factory in Beune. Mustard is near and dear to my heart. I seem to buy jars wherever we go - Belgium, Germany, etc. because they have such different flavors.

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  3. "And I'm not sure what the Aligote sentence is about. Is it missing a period or something? "
    Mustard is made with grain and wine, and this wine is Aligoté, the Burgundy wine you add to the blackcurrant liquor to make a Kir(speciality of Dijon too.) Hope this helps!
    Coco from Dijon http://www.myhomeindijon.com

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    1. Thanks for adding the explanation about Aligoté wine! I took a look at your website. It's good to know about "My Home in Dijon" in case we ever have the opportunity to spend a couple of days in Dijon.

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  4. I once had a conversation with our plumbers about what spices and condiments they liked. One used a wide variety, but the other used nothing but mustard. He was so parochial and unadventurous he even considered pepper to be foreign and not to his taste. It made me realise that mustard is indeed the native hot spice in Europe, which hadn't really occurred to me before.

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