While I was shopping in Ottawa on my last visit, I went to find some of the Tomato Puree that comes in a tube as we cannot get it up here in the frozen North. I found some (a couple of different brands, actually), but I also picked up the tubes of mustard you see pictured above.
I remember having these in the house when I was a kid. Indeed, even one of the brands was familiar, and, though I really didn’t have any pressing mustard ‘needs’, as it were, I decided to grab all the sorts I saw with a view to doing a bit of comparing and contrasting…
Now, I bought these mustards in two different European Delicatessens in Byward Market, and all are in the German style (‘Senf’). This is fine by me as I have generally preferred German mustards to French or North American… Possibly, this is because I lived there for a while as a child and still have very fond memories of all the different sausages and mustards. In any event, for today’s purposes, I am going to work my way through each from left to right as they appear in the opening photograph…
The first two products are both made by Thomy™, which is the brand I recall seeing in my parent’s house way back in the day. I was able to get two sorts: the ‘Mittelscharfer’, or medium strength, and the ‘Scharf’, which translates as ‘sharp’ or ‘pungent’, and is suggested to be a bit more ‘fiery’ given the red color of the tube. Actually, just as the two types look very much alike when squeezed from the tube, there is also not a great deal of difference in taste.
In general, it is my experience that German mustards tend, on average, to be just a bit sweeter than their French counterparts (although not as sweet as many American sorts). Here, tasting the medium strength, I got basically a sense memory experience of what I would almost consider to be the quintessential German Mustard. It is tangibly sharp, and sulfur pungent, both of the same time, but has a modicum of sweetness that tempers the extremes of these ever so slightly. There is some bitterness at the very end, but a bit less than I often experience in, say, a Dijon variety. It is basically the sort that I would quite happily slather on a Frankfurter, or a cold-cut sandwich.
As for the red tube, I didn’t find the contents all that ‘Scharf’ to be honest. There was no additional sensation of heat, at all… nor was there much beyond a faint increase in pungency (although, to be honest, even this might have been my imagination). Personally, I like both of these, but can see no reason to choose one over the other.
The third tube is a product by Burkhardt Feinkostwerke GmbH™. It is a bit a sweeter than the Thomy, and has a very nice creamy consistency. For my taste, though, it was just a bit bland and lacked some of the pungency of other mustards. Some may actually prefer it for this reason but I think that I would prefer to go with the Thomy brand, given the choice.
Finally, we come to the two products from Hengstenberg™ of Esslingen, Germany. A look at the their webpages indicates that they do quite a number of different mustards, but the two I bought are the ‘Süsser Senf’ , on the left, and the ‘Fuer Senf’, on the right. These terms mean ‘sweet mustard’ and ‘fire mustard’, the latter of which suggests its own culinary meaning.
The sweet mustard is wholegrain mustard, and is described on the tube as ‘Hausmacher Art’, which basically means ‘homemade style’. I often do not care for wholegrain mustards as the grains are often hard enough that they disrupt the texture a bit. Here, though, they are quite soft and complement the texture very nicely. The taste is pleasant but the sweetness is a bit more than I would like for a condiment mustard. I can see, though, that this would be a very nice mustard to use in glazes for roasts and the like.
The ‘fire’ variety (also described as ‘scharf’ on the label) is very interesting. It isn’t actually all that pungent, but it is very tangy and has a curious quality that I can only describe as nutty. I think the Thomy mustards are very nice, and all that I remember from the German mustards I had as a child, but I think, on the whole, that I like the Hengstenburg ‘Fuer Senf’ the best of all.
Anyway, while I was looking up the various mustard brands on line, I was happy to see that several are available through Amazon. I often find that mustards in a jar (with the exception of hot English mustard) do not last all that well. They may be pleasant on opening but, within a month or so, develop bitter, off flavors. The tube mustards ought to resist the sort of oxidation that spoils other mustard products so I think, in future, that I will be purchasing one or more of the above varieties on-line.