Manitoba mustard adds flavour to the market.
By Kelsey Schaefer
Many of Manitoba’s culinary products are born because of small-town cooks-turned-entrepreneurs. But when a Red Seal Chef transforms a commonly overlooked crop into a food production business like nothing before, it’s worth taking a deeper look. Carly Minish-Wytinck saw an opportunity to take Canadian mustard seeds to the next level and has been changing Manitobans’ minds about mustard ever since.
This young entrepreneur started her business after completing a culinary arts program in Alberta and working under Fusion Grill chef Lorna Murdoch. Carly noted that Murdoch used mustard in a number of her dishes and became inspired.
While Canada has been the long-time leader in worldwide mustard seed exporting, Carly noticed a gap in the local food market for mustards with unique flavours that could be used to enhance food.
“When you grind up mustard seeds, you’re often left with an overpowering flavour, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea,” says Carly. “It’s a challenge to create naturally flavoured mustard when all you can taste is…mustard.”
Carly began experimenting with the seeds and coming up with her own varieties of the condiment. Her product quickly gained popularity. She named her brand Smak Dab in ode to her parents, who always advised her to “put some of this smack dab in the middle of your plate.”
Smak Dab remains a family-run business today, with Carly’s parents leading production operations and her 87-year-old grandfather on the team. The mustard is still made in Carly’s hometown of Swan River, which she visits at least once every month to check in on her family and seed productions.
The exact procedure for creating Smak Dab products remains a family secret, but the general process is quite simple. The Minishes start by soaking whole mustard overnight in a flavoured mixture to soften and reconstitute the seeds. The next day, the seeds are mixed with seasonings and spices, depending on the chosen flavour. Finally comes the packaging, labelling and distributing.
“People love that we’re a family-operated business,” says Carly. “It’s incredibly heartwarming and I am very grateful.”
The product is exclusively Canadian and consists of 80% local ingredients. Everything from the mustard seeds to flavourings like maple syrup, honey, beer and wine are all sourced regionally, resulting in high-quality components and robust flavours.
“You can taste the difference between Smak Dab and some brands that are factory-made and use readily available ingredients,” says Carly. “We’ve converted a lot of people that don’t usually eat mustard into addicts and some who say that they can never eat regular mustard again.”
There are also plenty of health benefits to this tasty condiment. Mustard seeds are rich in minerals, antioxidants and dietary fibre, particularly when left whole, as in all Smak Dab varieties. When it came to creating her line of flavours, Carly simply focused on tastes she thought most people would enjoy, incorporating punchy ingredients like horseradish, curry, berries and herbs. The resulting condiments are well-rounded and versatile, making an excellent topping for burgers, dressing for salads or dip for veggies. Canadian Maple, Beer Chipotle and Hot Honey Jalapeno are just some of the options.
In ode to her horseradish-loving husband, Carly created a Honey Horseradish flavour, which has now become the brand’s bestseller. Cranberry Wine is a seasonal offering that flies off shelves from Thanksgiving until February. The savoury blend of tart cranberries, tangy red wine and warm spices with a hint of orange play nice with turkey, ham or baked brie.
With seven varieties currently catering to any mustardy preference, Carly still plans on eventually expanding the line.
Smak Dab may be homegrown, but word of the scrumptious sauce has spread. The product is now available across the country. Smak Dab can be easily found on the shelves of Red River Co-op, Save-On- Foods, De Luca’s, Piazza de Nardi, Sobey’s and Safeway. Winnipeg menus including those of Boon Burger, Fools & Horses, Gates on Roblin and Thermea Nordik Spa incorporate Smak Dab into their dishes.
If all that isn’t incentive enough to sample the savoury sauce, Carly also publishes a 35-page cookbook twice a year that features Smak Dab recipes. Proceeds from the books go to Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build Program.
For more information or to contact the business, visit www.smakdab.ca.