A regular sight as you drive along country roads are the never ending fields of yellow, mostly rape seed, planted for EU subsidies and oil. Look closer and these fields might be planted with mustardinstead as they look very similar, the same yellow flowers. The difference is that you don’t get that musty smell that you get when you drive past a rape seed field and it didn’t trigger a hayfever attack.
Recently, I had the chance to visit Tracklement’s mustard farm and their factory in the Cotswolds. We arrived in the middle of a mustard field which was thankfully not muddy. The mustard was thriving in the recent uncharacteristically warm weather. This crop was already over 5 feet tall, which is quite unusual.
Tracklements is a family run company that was founded about 40 years ago by William Tullburg who was at the time a sausage salesman. He was inspired by a recipe for wholegrain mustard that he found in a really old English recipe book. This venture started slowly, making mustard in the kitchen, which has since evolved into the company it is today.
They now make up to 50 products using the same hand made artisanal techniques, in small batches and with fresh local produce. Their current range includes chutneys, pickles, relishes, jellies, mustards and mayonnaise. Guy Tullberg is very hands on with new product development, sometimes from recipes found in long lost cook books.
This mustard field that we were on belongs to a local farmer. Tracklements likes to work with local farmers to use their fields to plant mustard as a rotation crop and to use any other produce that the farms have excess of to make some limited edition condiments.
Mustard grows like a weed and they grow the yellow mustard seeds themselves. The leaves of the mustard plant taste a bit like rocket but with a bit more kick. They would be great in salads, if only they could harvest them too. The story is that pilgrims used to carry mustard seeds with them to sow on their way, as the plants that spring up will show them the way home.
On this farm, they are growing the yellow mustard seeds. The seeds are found in the little pods of the stem which when harvested, can be kept for up to 3 years. They buy in the brown mustard seeds from India as these are harder to cultivate. This particular crop will be harvested in about September, weather dependent.
A picnic lunch was set up at the field, sitting on hay bales, where we got to taste quite a few of their mustards, including the mustard ketchup, beer mustard, spicey honey mustard with some ham, pork pies and cheeses. The mustard ketchup was a revelation, not a very strong mustard flavour wawith the ketchup like consistency. I can see this is a more versatile way to have mustard with your food, something inbetween the squeezy American mustard and the thicker mustards from a jar. With so many different mustard flavours on the plate, it was not easy to discern which was which, however the spicy honey one was distinctive in that the little sweetness from the honey greatly enhanced the meats.
How Tracklements Mustard is Made
We all put on some very sexy looking overalls and blue shower caps to walk through the factory. The factory is surpising small and all the machines look familiar, just like domestic mixers and cooking pots but just bigger.
The process starts here, where the raw ingredients are prepared. Vegetables for the picalili are brined here in the big green vat below.
This is the seed grinding machine which has been in operation for over 25 years and still going strong. A precise recipe, measured by eye, made up of proportions of yellow and brown mustard seeds and a spice mix is mixed up and ground in this step. However, every jar of mustard that is produced will taste the same. This process used to be done by Guy’s dad in a coffee grinder when he started.
The resulting mixture is then mixed in the big blue barrels with vinegar and stirred with the massive paddles. It is not as easy as it look, a bit like rowing in a pool of porridge. This chappie looks after the batches of mustard that needs stirring daily, which is probably part of his boxing training to build up those biceps.
After a few days, the mix changes consistency and starts to thicken up.
When the mix is ready, it is transferred to the bottling room which is semi mechanised. Each bottle is then filled and hand labled ready for the market.
At any one time, they could be making several different recipes and new flavours of condiments. We left with a few jars of mustards and I had couldn’t resist buying a bottle of the famed Onion Marmalade.
If you are in the area, you should drop by the Tracklement’s factory shop where they have the full range of their fab products. Their products are also available in shops around the country.
The Tracklement Company Ltd