DURING THE Indians' many lean years—in this case we're talking about the 1960s, '70s and '80s—many fans, myself included, had one reason to go to a home game: the hot dogs. The franks themselves were meat of questionable provenance, delivered to you by a vendor who was carting them around in a tub of tepid tap water for who knows how long, and served on a bun so stale that all but the most desperate pigeons would give it a hard pass. So what made them appetizing? They came slathered in a mustard unlike any condiment known to man—brown, vinegary and a little sweet, with an aroma that, for many Clevelanders, has a Proustian effect.
By the 1960s, Joe Bertman had been making the mustard for decades. One of his salesmen, David Dwoskin, obtained the rights to sell it to retailers. But at some point, the two fell out. The two recipes diverged ever so slightly; Dwoskin launched Authentic Stadium Mustard, and suddenly Cleveland was the site of the most unlikely of culinary conflicts: a mustard war.
Chef Michael Symon, a native of suburban North Olmsted, says, "It's hilarious because, at the end of the day, they're both great mustards." But forced to pick a side, Symon says, "Bertman is slightly more acidic, which to me enhances the mustard flavor."
Today, Bertman is sold at Indians games, while Browns games feature Dwoskin's Stadium Mustard. Each side claims supremacy: Stadium Mustard, a favorite of astronaut Don Thomas, has been served in space, while conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr. once sent out eight cases of Bertman as Christmas presents.
Symon uses Bertman in his barbecue sauce (below) at Mabel's BBQ in Cleveland. "It's also great in glazes," he says. "Say you want to do a roast fish, like a walleye or a salmon; take a little bit of that mustard with some soy sauce and maybe some brown sugar, glaze the fish and put it in the oven."
But the mustards are arguably at their best drowning a piece of grilled meat. Indeed, this is one war with no losers—unless you're one of those schmos stuck with boring mustard. "If someone puts yellow mustard on a hot dog," says Symon, "I'm mortified."
CLEVELAND BBQ SAUCE
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 small red onion, peeled and quartered
1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 chipotle in adobo, plus 1 tbsp. pureed
3 tbsp. bourbon
1 tsp. toasted coriander seeds
½ tsp. paprika
1 cup Bertman Ball Park mustard
½ cup yellow mustard
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. kosher salt
1½ tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
Place a saucepot over medium-high heat. Add the vinegar, red onion, garlic, whole chipotle, bourbon, coriander and paprika. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, in a mixing bowl whisk together both mustards, maple syrup, soy sauce, adobo sauce, salt and pepper. Strain the vinegar mixture over the mustard mixture and whisk until smooth and combined. Chill until ready to use.
Recipe courtesy of Michael Symon