Tin Dizdarevic, creator of Tin Mustard outside his Red Hook production facility.
Finding a partner for our pretzels that “cut the mustard” was a tall order at Manhattan Fruitier until Tin Dizdarević’s phenomenal mustard came into our lives. Tin Mustard, based in Red Hook, Brooklyn, may sound metallic but no heavy metals or preservatives are involved. Only pure, true ingredients – mustard seeds, vinegar and spices, making this namesake mustard peerless in the States, while rivaling the Dijon masters abroad. Born of necessity in the bustling kitchen of Craft Bar, Chef Tin Dizdarević, our August Maker of the Month, took his recipe to market and struck golden. We visited Tin’s new production facility recently to see his process, share recipes and learn more about his story and the art of mustard-making.
Manhattan Fruitier: This is such a nice space.
Tin Dizdarević of Tin Mustard: Yes. We were in a building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a loft building on the seventh floor with only one freight elevator. There would be bands practicing there who were going on tour. They’d be loading their equipment so we’d have to use the stairs. It was not fun when there was no elevator. Sometimes shuttling 300 lbs of mustard jars down the stairs.
Have you gotten to know your neighbors here in Red Hook yet?
We share this space with Early Bird Granola and White Mustache Yogurt. Stumptown is down the block. Also Newyorkina, the lady that makes paletas, the Mexican-style popsicles.
How did you get started in the mustard business?
I used to work in restaurants and when I was a chef at Craft Bar we had a charcuterie plate for which we just combined regular and whole-grain mustards. At one point we knew we were running out and I wanted to see if I could come up with a good recipe so I did some research. The first one I did came out pretty well. I played around with it and it became the main mustard we served.
Making a batch of Tin Mustard.
So, as I moved to other restaurants, I would take the recipe with me and we would use it.
For the company itself, it took a really long time to get started. The recipe originated in 2004 and the company was founded in 2011. I got the company off the ground with my brother and a mutual friend who is a designer. I was familiar with the food side of the business. My brother helped out with marketing and the designer friend helped with the branding.
We started out at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. Their inaugural year was May 2011. We didn’t really have any plans as to how we were going to distribute and sell it. We basically just showed up at the market and said we’ll see what happens. We were there every Saturday for a few weeks. We got to meet buyers, store owners and after three weeks I took a day off from my job and started dropping off jars of mustard to stores for samples. The first store I went into was Bedford Cheese Shop. The owner Charlotte was there and she had tried it already and said, “Yes, I’ll take a case.”
So that was the first sale. Then I went to about 10 other stores in Brooklyn and we slowly started getting established. It was super slow and super painful. Even these really popular specialty stores like Bedford Cheese Shop don’t really go through that much mustard because people don’t eat a whole jar in one sitting. We didn’t really see a big spike until that holiday season.
The next year we added a bunch of new stores and just kind of organically grew. It turned from a hobby project into a real business. In 2012 my brother passed away so that was a really challenging time to figure out what to do with the company. But I wanted to keep the memory of his goals for the company alive so I decided to continue with the company.
Towards the end of that year I ended up buying out the other partner so it’s my family’s company now.
What makes Tin Mustard special and stand out from other brands?
Number one is it’s a small brand. Everything we do is handmade in a small production kitchen. The mustard itself has an amazing texture. There’s the crunch — almost like caviar– you can bite into it. And then the flavor is a mix between traditional Dijon mustard and German, Austrian types. It’s whole-grain, but sweet. Ours isn’t too sweet, but it has a little bit of sweetness from the cider vinegar we use. You get mustard that goes really well with a lot of different foods. It’s also a great base for vinaigrettes and for different types of grilled meats and vegetables.
What makes mustard “Dijon”?
I’m not a complete expert on this, but it’s produced in the Dijon region of France. It’s made with white wine vinegar that is cooked at low heat for a period of time. It’s super smooth.
We are not in that style. We are kind of more a hybrid between Dijon and central European mustards.
Tin Dizvarević jarring his amazing mustard
Do you know where mustard seed is grown?
Well this is interesting. The biggest mustard seed producer is Canada. So a lot of the French mustard is actually made with Canadian mustard seeds. The seeds that we buy come from California and Canada. So it’s all North American seeds. You need a special climate — super-dry, but moderate so the seeds dry properly. Even though we grow mustard greens on the East Coast for salads and other things, the seeds don’t do well because it’s just too moist, hot and humid here.
What makes some mustard hot vs. mild? Chinese mustard, for instance, is very hot and spicy. Others are mellower. Why is that?
It’s the type of mustard seeds used. You’ve got yellow, brown and black seeds, and different varieties within those types. Some are spicier than others. Then there is also the preparation. Ours doesn’t have a lot of the ground seeds. You get a little bit of a kick once you bite into the seeds. And the more mustard is ground, the more you get the full potency of the seeds. Our smooth mustard is a little bit spicier for that reason.
Some people think you don’t have to refrigerate mustard. Where do you stand on that?
Technically I have to say that you must refrigerate it after opening a jar. I’ve never had any go bad. It will lose some of the potency and not be as spicy over time. The more it interacts with the air the duller it gets. Our mustard, especially if you don’t open it, has a shelf-life of two years.
Any special way you enjoy Tin Mustard?
I have an awesome kale salad recipe. Chop up the kale really fine. It’s kind of a take on a Caesar salad. So just kale, some sliced red onions, chopped up anchovies and garlic, grated Parmigiano, and mustard. Also, a pinch of salt and pepper. I also do a salad with tomato, corn and caramelized onions and vinaigrette made from Tin Mustard.
Tin Mustard featured in Manhattan Fruitier’s Barstool Snacker.
Did you eat mustard growing up? Did you like it?
Yeah. It was always like a family fight. My mom liked mayonnaise, my dad liked mustard. So, loyalties … I’m a fan of both.
What is your process for making the mustard?
It’s pretty straightforward. But one of the differences with our mustard is we use two types of mustard seeds — yellow and brown. The seeds are quite bitter when they are dry so we soak them in our vinegar mixture for two weeks to bring out the flavor.
Our production is quite small. We have a place to mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients. We let them sit for a week and then they will be jarred. It’s a very straightforward process.
What’s your focus for the company?
We’re just trying to grow the business. We’re thinking about those next stages of growth. We are fairly established in New York so we are looking for growth in other states. Part of the job is going to stores and doing tastings. Since I still have a full-time job on top of the mustard, we do that mostly on weekends.
So you’re doing this on your own now. It must be tough?
My wife is helping out with demos and stuff like that but it’s tough. Ideally we want to get it to a point where we are more successful and have more people involved.
Tin Dizdarević of Tin Mustard outside his Red Hook production space.
When it’s going well, what’s a great day for Tin Mustard? What do you enjoy most?
I love when people who don’t like mustard try our mustard and enjoy it. They say to me “I never liked mustard, but I like your mustard’. That gives me a good feeling.
Tin Dizdarević’s Heirloom Tomato Salad.
Location photography: Nelson Castillo. Recipe & Product photography: Drew Pleak.