Here’s what you need to get the party started

If you’ve ever jostled your way through the crowds at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market on a Saturday, you’ll know it’s elbows up if you want to make it anywhere near Kozlik’s. The mustard mecca holds a massive public tasting party on that day, setting out ramekins of all 38 of its mustards along with pieces of freshly cooked peameal bacon for dipping. Like a gaggle of Goldilocks, samplers sing out their appraisals: This one’s too hot, this one’s too sweet … oh, this one’s just right! Comments from condiment connoisseurs are more in-depth and address everything from appearance and aroma to flavour notes and mouth-feel.

Jeremy Kessler, who purchased the then 50-year-old company from Anton Kozlik back in 2000, understands why people like to taste his concoctions before committing
to a jar. For many, only yellow, Dijon and honey mustards have crossed their palates, so varieties such as Clobbered Cranberry, Balsamic with Figs and Date and Black Harp, which boasts Guinness beer, seem daunting.

“Tastings are good for the customers and good for us as well. We get a lot of feedback, which helps us finesse existing products and tweak new ones.” Mind you, new product development is tricky, and a few duds can be expected along the way. “We sold only a few jars of the chocolate mustard we made one year for Valentine’s Day and we couldn’t get rid of our St. Patrick’s Day mustard, which was, I admit, really green.”

Interestingly, Kozlik’s varieties, along with the thousands of different mustards produced worldwide, all stem from three classifications of seeds. The mildest, white a.k.a yellow, is most famous for its use in ballpark mustard, the bright yellow stuff folks love to squirt on hot dogs. Brown seeds, which offer medium heat, are used in varieties such as Dijon. And black seeds bring their heat to the hottest mustards and oils.

But here’s the zinger. Canada is the largest exporter of mustard seeds in the world. A cool-season crop that fares well in short growing seasons, the plant thrives in the idyllic soils of Alberta and Saskatchewan. And there’s more. According to the Saskatchewan Mustard Dev-elopment Commission (saskmus, mustard is a good source of magnesium, which is linked to
reduced blood pressure, asthma relief, sleep relief for menopausal women; selenium, a natural oxidant that may prevent or slow cancer growth rates; omega-3 fatty acids, which may help decrease risk of heart disease; and calcium, protein, iron, phosphorus and zinc.

Although seed type affects any given mustard’s heat level as well as its appearance and texture, flavour is mostly determined in the mustard-making process. Seeds – whole, crushed or ground – of a single type or a combination of types are soaked for several hours (or up to several days) in liquid to activate the chemical compound that delivers the heat. Water is often used as a soaking agent, but so too is vinegar, wine, beer and so on.

Next comes the fun part where the petri dish becomes a playground. Limitless possibilities can be had as mustard masters choose from a merry-go-round of herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, nuts, spirits, juices and sweeteners, all in the attempt to create an extraordinary mustard.

Mary Fabiano, the owner of Summer Kitchens, works and plays in her “manufactory” in Toronto devising recipes for the company’s mustard line, Queen Mary. Her goal is to abolish the “condiment cemeteries” that exist in refrigerators across the nation, which she says are created when people purchase sub-par products they end up using only once or twice.

“We incorporate only top-quality ingredients into our mustards, and I don’t believe that when it comes to variety, more is necessarily
better. How many flavours do you really need?”

Which isn’t to say she doesn’t dabble in novelty mustards. Her Dirty Martini variety boasts vermouth and pimento olives among its ingredients. She recently developed an ice-wine mustard for Taste the 4th Sense, a specialty shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake. And the mustard maven is currently in the throes of creating her latest masterpiece, which she won’t say much about other than it is “iconic Canadian.” Hmm … maple syrup? Poutine? Beavertail?

Mustard marries well with all things Oktoberfest, and so, in keeping with the spirit, put a little oompah in your tasting party. Ideally, you’ll want to hold it outdoors, but don’t worry if you have a limited space – even a balcony can be turned in to a miniature Biergarten when you set out coolers filled with different types of German beer or, better still, a keg. Food-wise, don’t get your lederhosen in a twist. Chef Scott Yates, a rising star from the Kitchener-Waterloo region, has contributed these two recipes (at right) for appetizers, one involving brats and the other, shrimp. Although both can be served on a platter, it’s much more fun to set out individual tiny tasting plates, which can easily be found these days at many kitchen, home accessory and dollar stores.

A key to the success of your tasting party is the diversity of the mustards you choose. Nudge guests out of their condiment comfort zone with a range of different hues, heat levels, textures and tastes, and you’ll hit this party out of the ballpark. Prost!

 NEXT: What You’ll Need

What You’ll Need

– Five different flavours of mustards – a common one, perhaps, plus four of the more exotic varieties, some of which are listed above

– Five ramekins or small bowls

– A platter of mild cooked ham (warmed is nice but not necessary) for dipping, sliced into small pieces, five per guest, with toothpicks or pretzel sticks for vegetarians

– One pen plus five scorecards (one for each mustard variety) per guest (download PDF)

– Water and plain crackers for palate-cleansing

Set-Up and Ambience

– Hold the party in an outdoor space lit with white Christmas lights.

– Create a playlist of German music, classical to contemporary, but with a few traditional beer-drinking tunes thrown in.

– Casual tableware works, outdoor stuff will do; use glass or plastic beer steins.

– In front of guests, line up five ramekins of different flavours of mustard as well as a platter of small pieces of ham and pretzel sticks for dipping.

– Beside each ramekin, set a placecard listing the mustard’s name and a few fun facts.

– Become the Mustard Master! Share your newfound knowledge with guests, being sure to mention the Canadian connection (see above)

– Tell guests to cleanse palates with water and crackers between tastings.

– Allow guests time to jot down notes on their scorecards and compare impressions as they move from one mustard to the next.

– Tally scorecards, let everyone make a case for their own favourite and then declare the overall winner!


Honey Mustard-Glazed Shrimp

1 bag uncooked jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (16/20 count), thawed and rinsed

¼ cup olive oil

1 tsp minced garlic
Juice and zest of 2 limes
Salt and pepper
Arugula (to line platter)


¼ cup honey

¼ cup grainy Dijon mustard (hot, if you prefer heat)

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Glaze: In small bowl, whisk together honey, Dijon mustard and vinegar. Set aside.

In large bowl, toss together shrimp, olive oil, garlic, lime juice and zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Grill shrimp on barbecue over medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning halfway and glazing often. Or place shrimp on parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with glaze. Bake in 400 F oven for about 10 minutes, turning once at half-time and glazing other side. Shrimp is ready when it is pink.

Arrange arugula on small tasting plates and top with one shrimp. Alternatively, line platter with arugula and pile shrimp on top.

Makes 16 to 20 tasting plates

Bratwurst Bites on Sauerkraut Nests

8          bratwurst sausages

1          bottle/can of German beer

1          jar (454 g) good quality sauerkraut

Salt and pepper

In saucepan, place sausage in just enough water to cover. Add half the beer. Simmer (do not boil) over medium high heat for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in skillet, combine sauerkraut, salt and pepper to taste and remaining beer; simmer over medium heat, uncovered, until liquid has been absorbed. (Note: Both these steps can be done shortly before guests arrive. Simply keep brats barely simmering and leave sauerkraut,
covered, on stovetop over no
heat until you’re ready to continue.)

When ready to serve, remove sausage from pan and grill on
barbecue over medium heat
until nicely browned. Remove
from heat and let stand for 10 minutes while reheating sauerkraut on low.

Cut each sausage into 4 bite-size pieces. Arrange sauerkraut into “nests” on small tasting plates; place two slices of bratwurst on each. Alternatively, arrange sauerkraut on a platter with sausage slices piled on top. Serve with different mustard varieties and appetizer forks.

Makes 16 tasting plates