03 April, 2010

Fresh Horseradish

Every year, I make my own prepared horseradish and give bottles of it to family and friends to enjoy with their Easter and Passover meals.  It's a tradition my mother handed down to me.  In the mid-1990's, I wrote up my technique and posted it to the Fidonet COOKING echo (a sort of international messaging system for cooking enthusiasts that predates the internet.) Since then, these instructions, like many of the other recipes I've shared electronically over the years, have been scraped by bots and stolen and added into recipe archives all over the internet and beyond, usually with my name and location stripped from it.  In fact, only website other than my own has actual permission to archive and distribute my recipe, and that is Bert Christensen's Weird And Different Recipes, a website well worth browsing if you're looking to cook something...unusual.

Anyway, the genie is out of the bottle, and I doubt I will ever be able to get my bylines back onto the bootlegged copies of my horseradish recipe that are floating around in cyberspace.  But I can, however, print the recipe right here, so everyone can know that those instructions are mine, developed and written my me.  And if you ever see them anywhere but here or over to Bert's Place, you're seeing ganked content.

Fresh horseradish root.  Yes, I know what it looks like.  I have a 12-year-old's sense of humor.

Dave's Horseradish

Horseradish roots
Kosher salt

Every Spring, for the Easter/Passover season, I make gallons of prepared horseradish for my family and friends. My horseradish has a reputation for being the strongest kickass root available. Anyone, though, can make root that can stand up to mine...if you use my instructions.

Selecting the root: Bring a small knife with you to the supermarket. Pick up every root you're considering buying and give it a squeeze. If it's limp, feels fleshy or flaccid, or wrinkled, forget it. Select only fresh roots that feel rather heavy for their size and are as hard as wood. Use the knife to pare off a thin bit of the root and pop it in your mouth. Bite down on it. If it makes your lip and tongue go numb and tingly, it's good. Don't buy it if it's weak, or if it leaves a bitter quinine aftertaste (the bitterness will be magnified by grinding.)

Preparation: Set up a table in front of a window. Open up the window and set up a fan to blow air OUT the window. Horseradish fumes are crippling and you will NOT be able to do this without pulling the fumes out the window. By exhausting air out rather than blowing in, you can even do this on a chilly night when you might otherwise not want a window open.

On the window table put your food processor. If you can run your processor with both the shredding blade in the top and the puree knives in the bottom, great. Set it up that way. If not, you'll have two steps (grating and pureeing) instead of one. Next to the processor, still in front of the window, put a large bowl. That's where the ground root will go. Close at hand (maybe on the kitchen table) put the jars where the root will be packed, a large bottle of vinegar, and your salt.

Step 1: Wash and peel. Put all the roots into the sink and start running a thin stream of cold water. Get them all wet and let them sit a few minutes to soften the dirt on them. With a stiff bristle brush, give them a good scrubbing under the stream of water. When they're clean, use a veggie peeler to pare off the brown skin and green tops (if they have green tops. You can cut the top inch off the root, leaving the greens alone, if you like, and plant them in your backyard if you want to grow your own.) Do the peeling under the running water, also. Keeping the water drizzling over the root while you peel carries off some of the volatile chemical, saving your life while you work in the sink.

Step 2: Grate and Grind. Bring the peeled roots over to the window table and turn the fan and your food processor on. Feed them down the chute to the grating wheel. The top wheel will grate the root, and the bottom knives will do the fine chopping (if you can't run both knives in your machine at once, you will have to grate each bowl full of root, then put the chopping knife in to finish separately.) As the root gets finer and finer, it will begin sticking to the sides and bottom of the bowl. Slowly, and with the processor still running, pour in vinegar to get a thick but not sticky consistency. Continue to whirl in the bottom knives for several minutes, until the root bits are very very fine. Stop the processor and dump the processor bowl into the large bowl. Repeat these steps until all the roots are grated, ground, and in the large bowl. Remember to keep the fan on all this time! When all the roots have been processed, rinse the processor knives and bowl with cold running water. Wash them as necessary. Put the processor away or aside. You'll need the space on the table in front of the fan to pack the jars.

Step 3: Seasoning. You've still got that fan running, right? Leave the bowl in front of the fan. The grated root in the bowl should not be too dry. Stir in enough vinegar to give a smooth consistency. Taste a little bit of the puree (be careful! This is likely to be the strongest horseradish you've ever tasted.) If you think it needs salt, add some Kosher salt or canning salt. I usually add about half a teaspoon per quart.

Step 4: Packing. Use a ladle and a canning funnel to fill pint jars with the prepared horseradish. Fill the jars up, cap them off, and put them in the fridge. Do not process the jars. Keep them refrigerated. You may turn off the fan after all the jars are full and after all implements have been rinsed. The horseradish will maintain full potency for a couple of weeks (I make mine no more than a week or so before Easter) but will still be pretty damn strong for a month or two. Use it before it turns brown.

Cleaning up: Most of your tools (the bowls, ladle, etc) will require little more than a good rinse with cold water first (to neutralize and dilute any horseradish fumes) then hot water, since you aren't cutting any greasy fat.

That's it; that's how to make horseradish.


Alisa-Foodista said...

thanks for sharing your tips and recipe for horseradish. I havent made one myself but I'm printing and saving this one.If you won't mind I'd love to guide foodista readers to your site.Just add your choice of Foodista widget at the end of this blog post and it's good to go.Thanks!

Mr. Dave said...

Hey Dave, do you have a good Roast Beef type horseradish sauce recipe? Excuse my ignorance if you have already posted about one. My old standby is the oft published -

3 Tbsp prepared horseradish
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp mayonnaise

This is the only time when I will ever consume mayonnaise. I figured you might have a better solution.

Battle Park said...


I've been successfully growing several roots for a few years now, just waiting to do something with them - and I LOVE horseradish.

Anonymous said...

here i am giggling again... the photo and your 12 yr old sense of humor.. i have some fennel breadsticks, i just posted them, you are going to laugh... ;)