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The History of Dijon Mustard

Mustard dates all the way back to the ancient world. In both the Middle East and Egypt, mustard seeds were used as spices as far back as 3000 B.C. The Romans then adopted the spice and ground it into a paste not too dissimilar from modern mustards. But the next innovation in mustard’s development happened not in Rome, but in France. The Burgundy region (where Dijon is located) is well known for its wine. Mustard-making cropped up as an industry in the area because mustard seeds provided essential nutrients to grapevines, so they were routinely planted alongside the grapes. Locals then made mustard by mixing mustard seeds with wine must, which is a byproduct of winemaking. Mustard became so popular that the Dukes of Burgundy once reportedly served 70 gallons of it at a feast in 1336! But true Dijon mustard didn’t come around for another 500 years or so. Over time, vinegar replaced grape must in the recipe. Then in 1856, a citizen of Dijon named Jean Naigeon began making mustard with another wine product called verjus in place of the vinegar. (The use of a wine byproduct in the recipe is what gives Dijon mustard its unique heat.) Approximately a decade later, Grey Poupon was founded. The fledgling company used steam power to mass-produce Dijon mustard for the first time and quickly made its mark on the mustard market in France before moving on to the rest of Europe and then crossing the Atlantic to America, where it is now a well-known brand of Dijon mustard. Today, Dijon mustard is popular all around the world and most recipes still use white wine products to impart that distinctive zing of heat and flavor.

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