Cutting the mustard: Mother's Mountain celebrates 30 years in Falmouth

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FALMOUTH — Thirty years ago, Carol Tanner’s father came to live with her and asked her to make a batch of her mother’s mustard.

She did, Tanner recalled this week, but “it wasn’t very good.”

But she kept working at it, trying different ingredients until she found the flavor she remembered: the special mustard her mother made, salt-free for her grandmother, and sweetened with local honey.

Then she bottled it and took a case to the local Shaw’s supermarket. Almost immediately, the store manager called her up and asked for two more cases. Then Hannaford Bros. called. They wanted some, too.

That was in 1982. Since then, Mother’s Mountain Mustard has become a fixture in area supermarkets and specialty food stores, and the company has expanded its line to include jams, ketchup, hot sauces and barbecue sauces.

All 32 different items are made in a small garage in Falmouth that smells sharply of mustard and vinegar. Metal shelves holds boxes of jams and mustards ready to ship out, some with labels for Reny’s, some heading to Whole Foods, others to specialty food purveyors throughout the area.

Tanner, 80, still creates all the recipes with her husband, Dennis Proctor. The couple has been together for 30 years, a little bit longer than they’ve been making mustard. Tanner’s four sons and their families occasionally help out in the family business, but for the most part, the couple makes the products themselves.

“We’ve grown by listening to people,” Tanner said.

Every year she takes the mustard to the Common Ground Fair in Unity, where people will tell her they want a spicier version, or ask if she can make a particular kind of jam.

“People said make it hotter, so we did a hot mustard,” Tanner said.

Proctor said the company has considered going organic, but that the paperwork and requirements for a certified organic product is more work that it’s worth.

“As long as we bring on a clean product, people are happy,” he said.

Mother’s Mountain does not use any preservatives and the products are free of gluten. Many of the ingredients, like honey, are purchased from local farmers.

“Everything on our labels is what people would find in their pantries at home,” Proctor said.

Tanner said things have changed a lot in 30 years.

She recalled the president of Hannaford Bros. calling her up personally to ask to distribute her mustard in his stores, and remembers asking the bank for a $1,000 loan to buy some extra glass bottles to do a larger shipment, and getting a check the same day.

Now, the company goes through a distributor and same-day micro-loans are  unheard of.

“I think it’s become hard for a little person to start in on a new business,” she said.

Tanner said she’d like to retire soon and dedicate herself full-time to painting, something she’s always loved to do. Her husband would likely continue running the business, and they’ve considered bringing someone on to help him out.

In the meantime, they’re throwing the company a birthday party on Oct. 22 from 1-6 p.m. The public is welcome at Tanner and Proctor’s home, 2 Mustard Hollow, off Woodville Road. The Rangers and the Pete Kilpatrick Band will be performing, there will be free t-shirts – and, of course, lots of mustard.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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Falmouth resident Carol Tanner, who created Mother’s Mountain Mustard 30 years ago, stocks a pot of red pepper jam in the company’s kitchen on Tuesday. Mother’s Mountain will have a celebratory party Saturday, Oct. 22, from 1-6 p.m. at 2 Mustard Hollow in Falmouth.

Mother’s Mountain creators Carol Tanner, right, and her husband, Dennis Proctor, in the company’s small kitchen in Falmouth. The company will celebrate 30 years of making mustard and other specialty foods on Saturday, Oct. 22, from 1-6 p.m. at the company homestead, 2 Mustard Hollow (off Woodville Road) in Falmouth.

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