Without it, your hot dog just wouldn’t cut it.

Neither would your pretzel, deviled eggs, or classic cheeseburger.

Mustard adds a bold and slightly bitter and acidic bite to any entrée with which it’s served. Its particular tart and tangy, potent and pungent flavor complements sandwiches, sausages, cheese boards, and Easter ham. It pairs well with pork and potatoes, brightens rich and creamy pasta sauces, lends depth and complexity to egg dishes, and creates a beautiful crust for salmon, leg of lamb, and roast turkey.

That’s the might and magic of mustard. The distinctive condiment not only tingles the sinuses and awakens the palate but elevates all sorts of dishes with its savory sharpness.

“I just love the extra kick it gives to food,” says Tracy Savage (’91 Ag. Ed.) of Savage Mustard. Its motto: “Kinda Sweet, Kinda Savage.”

Open jar of mustard with a spoon in it

The small-batch, Zillah-based mustard company makes three kinds of mustard: Savage Chili Pepper, Del-ish Deli, and Sassy Sweet, the original flavor and top seller. All three include a touch of horseradish for even more of a kick.

Savage Chili Pepper, made with jalapeños, packs the most punch. Sassy Sweet is based on Savage’s grandmother’s recipe. “She was German and used her hot honey mustard in lots of different dishes,” says Savage, an elementary school principal with a spicy side hustle. She launched Savage Mustard in 2022 after participating in that year’s Enterprise Challenge, an annual business competition organized by the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce and Yakima County Development Association. “They help connect you with the right people and provide resources to kick-start your small business. The experience was just phenomenal.”

Before that, Savage gave her mustard as gifts to family and friends, who encouraged her to start a business. “More and more people were asking for it. They said, ‘Hey, this is really good. You should sell it.’”

A co-packer on the west side of the state helped her scale up her recipe for retail. And, in 2023, she doubled her sales over her first year in business. So far, she’s made five bulk batches of 4,000 jars in all. Her personal favorite is Del-ish Deli, a brown mustard she uses for dipping as well as in pork, chicken, and other recipes.

Mustard, made from the seeds of the mustard plant, comes from two closely related species: white mustard (Sinapis alba or Brassica hirta) and brown mustard (Brassica juncea). White mustard seeds, also known as yellow mustard seeds, are milder than the black or brown seeds used in Dijon and deli mustard.

Mustard has been used as a spice and for medicinal purposes as early as 3000 BCE. Greeks and Romans blended ground mustard seeds with grape juice to make a poultice. That could be where its name comes from. Latin for freshly pressed grape juice is mustum. French is mout. Freshly pressed grape juice, or “must,” was originally used in making French moutarde, or mustard.

Early recipes also included ground nuts. First-century Roman writer Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella featured a recipe in his 12-volume work on agriculture, De re rustica, with ground mustard seeds, vinegar, pine nuts, and almonds. Both Romans and Moors used nuts to temper mustard’s spiciness. This sort of nutty mustard was made well into the Middle Ages.

“A tale without love is like beef without mustard: an insipid dish,” Anatole France wrote in 1914’s La Révolte des anges. Mustard shows up in the writings of William Shakespeare, too. Mustardseed, for example, is the name of a mischievous fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In an oft-quoted parable in the Bible, a single seed symbolizes the potential of faith. In folklore from many countries, mustard keeps evil spirits out of the house.

The quick-growing, cool-season specialty crop, a member of the Brassica family, is commonly grown in rotation with small grains. It’s particularly prevalent on the Palouse. In fact, Washington is one of the country’s top mustard-growing states, along with Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and North Dakota. In 2020, the United States produced 81.8 million pounds of mustard, valued at $22.1 million, from a harvest of a total of 91,400 acres.

Whole mustard seeds are odorless. Their flavor comes from mixing ground seeds with water, wine, or vinegar, which produces a chemical reaction and gives mustard its fiery zing. Wine and vinegar lessen the reaction, resulting in milder mustard.

Mix mustard into salad dressings, marinades, and mayo. Add it to brines and pickling liquids. Or, like Savage, make your own. Her Savage Mustard is for sale at more than 30 locations, mostly in and around the Yakima Valley, as well as online.

She encourages people to “think outside the box. Mustard is not just for hamburgers and hot dogs,” Savage says. “You can put it on a lot of different things to enhance the flavor.”

She’s even tried it on pizza. Mustard on pizza? “It was awesome,” she says.


Cougar Gold Chili Pepper Grilled Cheese

From Savage Mustard


2 tablespoons room temperature butter

8 slices of bread of your choice (Sourdough is a good one!)

3–4 tablespoons Savage Chili Pepper Mustard

6 ounces Cougar Gold cheese


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter each slice of bread lightly on one side. On the other side, spread the mustard. Form sandwiches with the buttered sides on the outside and mustard and cheese on the inside. In a pan on the stovetop, cook over medium heat until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Then turn over and repeat. Transfer to a baking sheet and place in the 300-degree oven until the cheese is completely melted. Enjoy!


Yield: 4 sandwiches


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