Hidden Belgium: The century-old mustard shop

Hidden Belgium: The century-old mustard shop

They have been selling spicy Tierenteyn-Verlent mustard in a small shop in Ghent for more than a century.

The mustard is still made in big wooden vats in an ancient Romanesque cellar below the shop. It is an authentic local product based on a secret family recipe. And it’s hard to find anywhere in Belgium. You can only be sure of finding it in the shop on the Groentemarkt, or Vegetable Market, in the heart of Ghent.

The shop occupies a beautiful historic building with a green wooden façade and a gleaming metal half moon above the door. The tiny 18th-century interior smells of dried herbs and spices. The shelves are lined with grey stoneware mustard pots decorated with the half-moon logo, the family name and the date 1790 in blue letters.

Don’t ask them to explain the date. No one knows why it says 1790 as the mustard business was founded by Petrus Tierenteyn, who was just two years old at the time.

The story they tell is that Petrus overheard Napoleon talking to one of his soldiers about Dijon mustard. And Petrus decided to make his own mustard in the Dijon style in a factory he established in 1818.

They do things here the old way. The mustard is poured by hand into little pots. You can turn up with an empty pot and they will fill it up again. Some customers travel half way across the world to buy mustard in this little Ghent shop. And Belgian chefs put in special orders to get hold of this exceptional local product.

“It’s definitely the best mustard I’ve ever tasted,” said Jamie Oliver during an interview in 2009. He admired the combination of the soft texture and the hint of spice. “It’s obviously made with good quality vinegar, none of your cheap shit,” he added.

You can pick up a 35 gram jar of mustard for a few euros. Or pay a little more to get it in a beautiful stoneware pot made at the La Roche pottery works in the Ardennes. It’s a small price to pay for what might be the best mustard in the world.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.

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