Cooking with Vern Summerlin

If you like the flavor of mustard, whether on a sandwich, hot dog, sausage or with an entrée such as venison or duck, I think you’ll enjoy this recipe. There are a great many of us who relish the tangy taste of mustard, because worldwide we consume 400 million pounds each year.

Mustard is one of the oldest spices humans have added for zest. It was used 5,000 year ago around the Mediterranean and in Asia. It was an everyday spice for the ancient Greeks, the Romans used it as a condiment and pickling spice, and, when traveling, King Louis XI carried his own royal mustard pot so he could have his favorite spice if his host was remiss.

Mustard was, and still is, made by grinding seeds into a flour of what was called the senvy plant (same family as broccoli and radishes, but in time, senvy simply became known as the mustard plant). The flour was mixed with a liquid like unfermented wine, called “must.” The must, a grape juice, helped bring about the modern name “mustard.”

There are three mustards: white (sometimes called yellow), brown and black. White mustard seeds become slightly yellow when ground to flour and is used mainly to produce a mild preparation; whereas brown mustard and black (usually called oriental) mustard are mainly for hot table mustard.

Our American ballpark-style mustard is made from the white seeds and blended with sugar and vinegar and is colored with turmeric.

Dijon mustard is made from the husked black seeds blended with wine, salt and spices. It is pale yellow and ranges from mild to very hot. This is the mustard generally used in classic French mustard sauces and salad dressings.

Bordeaux mustard is made from unhusked black seeds blended with unfermented wine producing a strong, aromatic, dark brown mustard often flavored with tarragon.

Powdered mustard, usually made from white mustard seed, is often called mustard flour. It is bland when dry but when mixed with cool water its pungency comes forward after a glucoside and an enzyme have a chance to combine in a chemical reaction (about 10 minutes). Hot water will kill the enzyme and adding vinegar can stop the reaction before that its full flavor has developed. Once the essential oils have formed, then other ingredients can be added to augment the taste: grape juice, lemon or lime juice, vinegar, beer, cider or wine, salt, herbs, etc.

Now select your favorite mustard and let’s cook some fish.

Mustard Fried Fish

6 to 8 slab fillets

16-ounce carton sour cream

1 cup prepared mustard

3 cups yellow cornmeal

Salt and pepper to taste

Peanut or canola oil

Coat fish with sour cream and mustard and let stand for 20 minutes in refrigerator. Season cornmeal with salt and pepper, before dredging the fish in the mixture. Deep-fry in hot oil, using either a cast iron skillet or deep fryer.

Lemon Rind Fried Fish

1 1/2 pounds crappie fillets

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup beer or water

Vegetable oil (for frying)

1/2 cup cornmeal for coating

1/2 cup flour for coating

Mix flour, lemon peel, salt, pepper, and beer. Chill for 30 minutes. Heat two inches of oil in a fryer to 375 degrees. Mix cornmeal and flour for coating. Coat fish in cornmeal-flour mixture. Dip in batter. Fry 3 minutes or until tender.

And for us squirrel hunters—or anyone looking for an excuse to eat noodles—try this recipe.

Squirrel and Noodles

3-6 squirrels (depends upon how much meat you want)

1 large onion, quartered

1 large can chicken broth

Poultry seasoning (to taste)

Egg noodles

In a Crock-Pot, combine the squirrels, onion, broth and poultry seasoning. Cook on low overnight or 6-8 hours and the meat falls off the bone. Remove squirrels and onion. Discard onion. Save broth. Remove the meat from the bones and add back to broth. In a pan, add noodles (amount depends how many you are feeding) to boiling water. Boil until almost done. Drain noodles and add them to the crockpot. Cook on high for an hour or until noodles are tender. Serve and enjoy.