Still Cutting the Mustard

North America’s only stone-ground mustard mill uses its original grindstones to produce a gold-medal-winning condiment.

| July/August 2019

Photo by Getty Images/FotografiaBasica

The year was 1903, and 23-year-old J. Wesley Raye, or J.W. Raye for short, had recently returned from the Spanish-American War to the small town of Eastport, Maine. The thriving town of 5,000 people was bustling, with 27 working sardine factories and one mustard mill. Convenient and portable, canned sardines made a popular lunchbox treat, especially when packed in piquant mustard sauce.

Seeing a business opportunity, Raye imported two massive 2,000- to 3,000-pound quartz grindstones from France, built a small mill near Eastport’s railroad line, and started supplying mustard to the sardine factories dotting the coast of Maine. In the early years, townspeople brought their own containers to the mill and purchased mustard directly from the vats. In the 1920s, an electric motor was added to help grind the massive original grindstones, and by the 1960s, jars of Raye’s bright-yellow mustard were stocked on local grocery store shelves, alongside national brands.

Photo by Library of Congress/Lewis Wickes Hines

In the century following the mill’s inception, the rail line left town, Eastport’s population shrank to about 1,200, and its sardine factories closed one by one, the last shuttering its doors in 1983. But Raye’s Mustard Mill remained, and now stands alone as the last stone-ground mustard mill on the continent.

What hasn’t changed is the high quality of the product. Kevin and Karen Raye took over the business in 2005, and they use the same process and grindstones that J.W. Raye implemented all those years ago. “If J.W. came back today, he’d surely recognize the process,” says Kevin. The mustard is still made using a cold-grind technique that dates back to the Middle Ages; this ensures that the flavors remain and the natural taste isn’t cooked off. “We stubbornly cling to this traditional process,” say Kevin and Karen. “It’s why our mustard tastes so good.”



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