Mustard & Pretzels (2015)

Two types of homemade mustard accompanied by a bag of Pennsylvania Dutch hard pretzels. The pretzels were purchased from Uncle Jerry's Pretzels in PA. (After a couple of lackluster attempts at baking hard pretzels, I decided to outsource that part.) The mustards went through a few experimentations before landing on the two contenders: a spicy brown and a honey mustard.

There are two predominant types of mustard seed: brown and yellow. Turning them into mustard is actually pretty straightforward. Soak the seeds in vinegar, add some water and spices and blend until it gets to the desired consistency. In the case of honey mustard, blend the result 50/50 with honey. Place in jars and that's about it.

It's worth noting that the flavor develops over time. Immediately after blending, the mustard will have an extremely pungent aroma. It will mellow out into a more recognizable mustard taste after sitting overnight. Even so, the flavor tends to be much more potent than a store bought mustard. So much so that this was an overwhelming success; friends and family were clamoring for homemade mustard!

This led to some research into the idea of turning this into a business. It's largely complicated by the fact that New York's cottage food law explicitly excludes mustard. On the surface, this seems a bit strange: you can sell repackaged spices (i.e. mustard seeds) and vinegar by itself, but not the combination of the two.

Nevertheless, this means mustard has to be prepared in a commercial kitchen in order to be sold in NY. Renting a facility is possible, but not cheap. Another major cost is the packaging; glass jars are heavy and expensive, even when bought in bulk. And the final complication is that the FDA requires filing a scheduled process for shelf-stable acidified foods (whether mustard qualifies as this is unclear), which entails proving to a very high standard that the food is manufactured and packaged safely.

I went so far as to mock up a logo and jar labels. But ultimately the whole business idea didn't seem viable.

Updated by Luke on May 23, 2024 Posted by Luke on March 8, 2023