Mustard. Relish. Catsup. These 3 sauces define classic BBQ burgers and hot dogs. Our summer Grill Guide series celebrates The Sauce with fun facts, salad suggestions & booze pairings

Some burgers and dogs, a salad, and a well paired selection of drinks, tied together by humble and time-tested sauces loved the world over: The simple joys of summer, conveniently bundled for your barbecuing pleasure. We start our series with a celebration of mustard, a zingy sauce derived from a rambunctious plant of the same name.

Cold and damp do not deter mustard plants. They spring up early, and fast. By June one round of mustard flowers has already bloomed jaunty yellow and gone to seed pod. The seeds are hardy, the plant grows like a weed.

The condiment mustard is made from the seeds. Crushed, pureed, soaked or stewed, wine or vinegar helps them release their flavour, though myriad variations on the theme exist. Yellow mustard seeds are milder, brown and black more intense.

Mustard is an ancient preparation. Styles have changed over time, but the idea has been present for thousands of years. From Rome to Gaul, which included what is now France, and the legendary city of Dijon that became synonymous with the sauce, the little seed with burning heat has made quite a journey, and its influence can now be found in cuisine worldwide.

Ham is to mustard what peanut butter is to chocolate, a match made in heaven. Usually combined with honey or maple in a glaze before cooking the ham, or spread on cold slices later, mustard meets its perfect expression when slathered on a Minced Hamburger.

Minced or ground ham is bound with egg, breadcrumbs or oatmeal optional. Use your favourite ham seasonings, or try these: Shallots and hot peppers or garlic scape and black pepper are simple and delicious. A curried or swiss cheese stuffed burger is next level. Sweet basil mustard blends with gherkins and bitter greens for topping.  Pineapple? That ball is in your court.

As for a dog, the cheddar smokey is your boy. All pork, with yellow ballpark mustard. A herbed lamb sausage is an interesting twist. Whole grain mustard here.

The potato salad is a summer classic. A dijon based recipe with boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes and  arugula is near effortless. Add bacon for brunch servings.

As some mustards are made with wine, it’s a natural beverage choice. Megan McDonald, sommelier at Merchant Tavern, has some advice on that.

Ballpark mustard “could easily be paired with red or white. A crisp, zesty white like a Vinho Verde or a dry style Riesling would be A+. On the red side, something straightforward and simple like a Beaujolais Nouveau or Pinot Noir. Some red wines can be quite complex, and because mustard is already quite flavourful, a safer bet is to allow the wine to complement it.”

A spicier mustard works well with a Pinot Noir or Riesling. Fruit notes pair nicely.

“I always think of classic pairings as well,” she finishes. “Mustards have historically been used in Northern France and Germany for cold meats and bratwurst, Rieslings and Pinots are indigenous to those countries!”