{Germany} Some like it hot: the Bautzen Mustard Museum

May 13, 2013

Germany

Yesterday was ‘International’ Museum Day in Germany, Austria and Switzerland*. Alas, I was nowhere near a museum, instead spending the afternoon travelling back from a long weekend in rural Saxony. But I did manage to visit a very special little museum while I was there, a couple of days earlier.

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One of the places we went to see was the town of Bautzen, the historical capital of Obserlausitz (Eng: Upper Lusatia) and an important cultural centre of the Sorbs, a Western Slavic people living in Germany and Poland. Bautzen is also home to the Bautz’ner Senf (Engl: mustard), one of the most well known East German food products. Today it is Germany’s leading mustard brand, covering almost a quarter of the national market, and in the East of the country its popularity  holds as much as two thirds of the market. So, if in Bautzen, eat mustard! Of course we had to go see the Bautz’ner shop and manufactory, which also happens to have a small museum in the back of their premises.

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The story of the famous Bautz’ner Senf is told in several display cases, ranging from historical documents and maps, ingredients, recipes and tools, to an impressive variety of vessels for both storing and serving mustard. The collection includes advertisements, labels and jars of the various varieties of Bautzn’er through the ages, as well as well known competitor brands such as Löwensenf (lion’s mustard), also from Germany, or Coleman’s Mustard from England.

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As well as the brand itself, visitors can also find out everything you need to know about mustard in general, from the cultivation of the mustard plant to the production of the much loved condiment that appears on our tables. Interesting fact: many mustards gain their bright yellow colouring through the addition of e.g. turmeric, whereas Bautzn’er gets its colour from the very fine grinding of the mustard seeds.

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Since the museum, which is free to visit, is located within the Bautzn’er shop, tasting the various mustards from the local manufactory – at an original 1860 Biedermeier shop counter, no less – is all part of the experience. It would seem rude not to buy some at the end of it. Unlike the glass and plastic jars of Bautzn’er you can get in any supermarket, these come in rustic stone jars.

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*Almost everywhere else, International Museum Day is celebrated on the official date, 18th May.

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