When I wrote about mustard recently, I got so many interesting recommendations that I went out and bought a bunch. Some of the tastiest mustards I tried were imported. Here are my current top five imported mustards:
5. Maille Dijon Originale (Canada) Good mustard seed, excellent vinegar, a touch of citrus and plenty of salt are the secret ingredients of the mustard that usually beats all comers in blind taste tests. There is a Maille store in Paris and one in Dijon. These boutiques sell top-quality vinegars and extremely potent fresh mustards that are never more then ten days old. The original French Maille mustard sells for something like $15 a jar. The Maille mustard we buy in the U.S. is a watered-down, shelf-stable version of the real thing. There is a little French flag on the label of the plastic squeeze bottle with the words: "France's Favourite Mustard." Which would lead you to believe that this mustard is imported from France -- but it's actually made in Canada.
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4. Vavel Chocimska (Poland) This thick, super-hot mustard owes its strange herbal flavor to charlock, a mustard-like weed that is picked in the wild and added to the conventional mustard seed. The name refers to the famous castle village of Chocim in Poland on the Czech border. Between the 15th and the 20th centuries, the castle of Chocim belonged successively to Moldavia, the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Romania, the Soviet Union and Ukraine. The cuisine of Chocim is understandably cosmopolitan.
3. Vavel Suwalska (Poland) A thick horseradish mustard in the Russian style with a lots of bite. Suwalska refers to the city of Suwalki, a Polish town on the border with Lithuania that has been occupied by the Germans, the Lithuanians and the Russians. Is there a mustard-producing nation that hasn't occupied Poland? While Poland has had the misfortune of being conquered by many different nations, at least they got some excellent mustard recipes out of it.
2. Horcica (Slovakia) More like a mustard sauce than a mustard, this brand is creamy-smooth and very hot with a touch of white wine. The "s chrenom" on the label means "with horseradish." The man on the label is wearing a chef's hat and a mustard-colored tuxedo -- is he the chef or the maitre d'? -- and he seems to be telling us: "This isn't your average peasant mustard -- this is some serious culinary mustard." He looks like my Slovak-born grandma; I like to think of him as the Slovak Mister Mustard.
1. Cracovia Super Extra Hot Mustard (Canada) A very hot and slightly sweet creamy yellow mustard with flecks of onion. I am guessing the people who founded the company are fans of the Cracovia soccer team of Krakow. According to their website, the company has factories in Poland, Belarus and Canada. It is primarily known as an importer of vodkas and other spirits. Cracovia's Super Extra Hot Mustard has a Polish name that reads Musztarda Piekielna, which translates to either "Infernal Mustard" or "Hellish Mustard." There is also a slogan on the jar that says "nawet drwala powala!" which the Polish-English dictionary I used translated to "would dirty a lumberjack, even." I don't know what that means exactly, but I can guess.