Pilgrim Seasonings

Plymouth Colony Foodways: Notes and Recipes from a 17th Century Kitchen

Mustard, the saucy seed

July 17th, 2012 by KM Wall

“Why then, the mustard without the beef.”

…says Grumio in The Taming of the Shrew, and mustard without beef is also true of early Plymouth Colony. There are no cows in New England until 1624 – Edward Winslow brings out 3 heifers and a bull; and the following year 4 heifers and a red cow for the poor of the town come out. The Division of Cattle in May of 1627 is really a censuses of the bovine beasts, and there aren’t many. Three in milk (and one possible), 2 steer (unmatched), a bull – most of the herd are heifers. Heifers are great for growing a herd, but they’re NOT what’s for dinner. Fish is what’s available, and fish is what they’re eating. Mustard, because it is hot and dry in it’s nature (Doctrine of Humours alert!) is considered to be choleric, which makes it a great sauce to serve with fish, because fish is cold and wet, coming as it does from the water…balance , balance, balance.
Mustard is also fairly inexpensive, easy to transport and common on ships as provisioning for sailors and fishermen.
In England you could buy mustard seed, or mustard meal and make up your own mustard, or you could but it already prepared. The most famous mustard in England was Tewkesbury mustard.

“Mustard of this place [Tewksbury] is much spoken of, Made upp in balles as bigge as henns eggs, att 3d and 4d each, although a Farthing worth off the ordinary sort will give better content in my opinion, this beeing in sight and tast Much like the old dried thicke scurffe thatt sticks by the sides off a Mustard pott…. ”

(The Travels of Peter Mundy in Europe and Asia, 1608-1667)


25. Mustard meale.
It is vsuall in Venice to sell the meale of Mustarde in their markets, as we doe flower and meales in England: this meale by the addition of vinegar in two or three daies, becommeth exceeding good mustard, but it would be much stronger and finer, if the huskes or huls were first diuided by the searce bolter, which may be easily done, if you drie your seedes against the fire before you grinde them. The Dutch iron handmils, or an ordinary pepper mil may serve for this purpose. I thought it verie necessarie to publish this manner of making of your sauce, because our mustard which we buy from the Chandlers at this day is many times made vp with vile and filthy vinegar, such as our stumack woulde abhorre if we shoulde see it before the mixing thereof with the seeds.
-1609. Hugh Plat. Delightes for Ladies to adorne their Persons, Tables, Closets and Distillations with Beavties, Banqvets, Perfumes & Waters. London. Hvmprey Lownes.

pepper mill from the Mary Rose


# 25.
To make Mustard divers ways.
Have good seed, pick it, and wash it in cold water, drain it, and rub it dry in a cloth very clean: then beat it in a mortar with strong wine-vinegar: and being fine beaten, strain it and keep it closed covered. Or grind it in a mustard quern, or a bowl with a cannon bullet.
-1678. Robert May. The Accompist Cook or the Art and Mystery of Cookery. London: Robert Hartford, fourth edition. (Falconwood Press: 1992, p. 89).

Make it with grape-verjuice, common-verjuice, stale beer, ale. Butter, milk, white-wine, claret, or the juyce of cherries.
-1678. Robert May. The Accompist Cook or the Art and Mystery of Cookery. London: Robert Hartford, fourth edition. (Falconwood Press: 1992, p. 89).



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

© 2003-2011 Plimoth Plantation. All rights reserved.

Plimoth Plantation is a not-for-profit 501 (c)3 organization, supported by admissions, grants, members, volunteers, and generous contributors.