Raye's Mustard,

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Maine’s Golden Surprise:
Raye's Mustard
by Chuck Strimpler

Gourmet Mustard is not something
one would normally connect with
the seafaring coast of Maine, except
the select few who know about
Raye’s Mustard Mill in Eastport Maine.  

While Raye’s occupies
an unassuming, industrial-
looking operation on the
outskirts of town, on a hill
overlooking the village and
the ocean, appearances
belies what is created inside:
gourmet mustard in varieties
that would satisfy the most discriminating mustard connoisseur.

The mustard is the most unique in the U.S. because of the way it's made -- using
mill stones to grind the seed.

It is the last surviving stone mustard mill in the country.

Raye's takes the best of 19th century mustard-making technology -- much of it
that can't be improved upon: The mustards seeds are 100% stone ground by
massive stone wheels driven by a sophisticated belt system.

While it is the only mustard mill left in the U.S., owner Nancy Raye says it may
also be the only stone operation left in the world that is used for actual
production of mustard. "There are a few demonstration mills in Europe."

Real Stones Grind Mustard

Using real stones to grind the mustard is
not just a quaint throwback to simpler times,
said Nancy, "It is the basis for our mustard’s
distinctive flavor."

The seeds are cold
wet-ground by the stones, preserving
the pure taste; modern mass production
techniques generate heat, resulting in cook
off. The giant stones rotate at a relatively
slow speed, keeping the temperature down
and the quality in, explained Nancy.

"By slowly grinding whole seeds along
with natural herbs and spices preserves
traits that stimulate the taste buds and
maintain the natural flavor," she said.  

The grinding is followed by a barrel aging process, which allows the mustard
paste to loose its bitterness through a natural chemical reaction. Raye’s makes its
mustard in small batches -- just enough to satisfy customer orders, thereby
ensuring freshness all the time.

"The process is really is more of a learned art than formulated science," said

Mustard-Making Family

Nancy Raye is from a long line of mustard-making family; the Rayes have been
grinding mustard in the same location since the early 1900’s.

The business got started by her grandfather, J.W. "Wes" Raye, whose father
captained coastal schooners on the Bay of Fundy. J.W. set up his first mill in the
family smokehouse to grind mustard sauces for packing sardines.

He eventually built a larger mill next to the rail supply lines. The rail also
connected to the steamship wharf allowing the mustard to be dispatched to
sardine factories as far away as Norway. In the early 1990s, as the sardine
mustard demands fell off, JW’s granddaughter, Nancy took over the business
and shifted the product from sardines to gourmet mustard.

It was a great move, Nancy said, "It saved the business from extinction."

The business is somewhat seasonable and employs up to ten people during the
summer peak, dropping to four or five in the dead of winter.

Raye’s ships to retail stores all over New England and specialty shops all over
the world, in addition to serving individual orders via mail or on line. Nancy is
happy to point out “Our mustards have been international award winners every
year since 1995, when we first competed.”  

You can take a tour of the mustard-making factory on the hour between 10:00
and 3:00 on weekdays and some Saturdays.

It is a unique operation that is well worth the short time it takes for the tour. The
folks there are very knowledgeable and can answer any question on mustard
making. In the front of the building is a pantry store that is open all year and
features the full range of creatively packaged mustards as well as regional arts
and crafts.  

Try the Different Flavors

As part of the tour, you have the added bonus of sampling some very
exceptional mustard flavors, including many you never would have dreamed
of. The names all have a distinctly New England slant to them.

There is: Downeast Schooner, Spicy Horseradish, Hot and Spicy, Dundicott Hot,
Brown Ginger, Jameson Tavern Style, Old World Gourmet, Winter Garden, Fall
Harvest, Aroostook Gold, Seadog Beer for the Portland fans and Bar Harbor Real
Ale. The real adventurous types may want to try the Bonney Farms Maple Pecan
mustard sauce.

Can’t make up your mind? No problem. Raye’s has a Sampler package that can
be purchased in person or on line. Many mustard related award winning recipes
can also be found on the web site,
Rayes Mustard

While visiting Raye's, you can also explore Eastport, a picturesque old seacoast
fishing village down east from Bar Harbor. Eastport, home of the Maine Salmon
Festival, has seen better times and is not currently one of the standard seacoast
communities that thrive on the tourist industry.

However, it is slowly making its way back, and Nancy Raye believes Raye’s
Mustard Mill is part of that journey.

“We were the first business to stay open year round as the revitalization started
in the nineties," Nancy says. “We made a commitment and helped inspire some
commercial building purchases. Four new restaurants and three new antique
shops opened last year alone."

About the author: Chuck Strimpler lives in Manasquan New Jersey.  He is a part time
freelance writer with a broad range of interests, and a frequent visitor to New England,
especially Maine.  
The Heart of New England
Did you know...

Mustard, while often taken for
granted, is actually one of the
world's oldest condiments; it
was also used in earlier
times for medicinal purposes.
Napoleon's armies used
mustard to prevent digestive
ailments and make their food
more agreeable. The seeds have
antioxidant properties and in
combination with other herbs
and spices actually exhibit
antibacterial qualities.
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