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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Horseradish from Field to Table

By Joseph Parish

Horseradish is cultivated for its dense, fleshy white, hard root. When ready for processing it displays a coarse yellowish-brown skin with a pale fleshy body. This member of the mustard family matures to about twelve inches long and is shaped somewhat as a carrot. The roots are usually absent of the characteristic pungent bite and aroma until the contained oil is released by grating and it then easily brings forth tears to ones eyes. When horseradish is prepared fresh from the root it has a much sharper zest than its commercially prepared cousin.

A review of the biblical book of Exodus mentions horseradish as one of the bitter herbs. Horseradish originated in the geographical region of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. It has been known for centuries as a medicinal herb readily used for illnesses ranging from gout to the common coughs. Travelers and traders ultimately transported the horseradish roots to England and the Scandinavian countries, where it received undisputed honors as a sauce used in the preparation of beef. Today there exists no place on earth where horseradish has not been grown.

It is readily accessible year round however sporadically it may be difficult to locate since prepared horseradish has taken over as a fashionable condiment. The root is usually harvested in the springtime and late fall.

When decide upon a horseradish root for home use, ensure that the one you are selecting is firm and has no soft spots on its flesh. If you do not plan to use the root immediately it can be stored in your refrigerator. Simply, wrap the root up in a dampened paper towel and place it inside a paper lunch bag. When packaged this way the root will last for several weeks in your refrigerator. To discourage condensation which tends to promote rot always use a paper bag and never the more common plastic ones. Should you notice that the root is starting to develop soft spots or it is shriveling up prepare it immediately. Prepared horseradish keeps a long time however, it will gradually begin to lose some of its pungency flavor.

When preparing to use a fresh horseradish root rinse the root meticulously and then peel it. Peel off any green tissue as it is extremely bitter tasting and is customarily not used. In addition, if the center of your root appears to be woody and exceptionally hard then discard it. An interesting way to grate your horseradish root is by hand over your food just prior to serving, similar to grading cheese on pasta dishes. If you are preparing larger quantities you may consider the use of a food processor. Slice your root into small chunks with a sharp knife then process in the food processor until they are finely chopped. Be sure not to over process them to the point of liquidizing. During this chopping process the roots volatile oils are quickly released. Vinegar tends to stop this reaction so it is important that you immediately add some distilled vinegar to stabilize the flavor and prevent the mixture from turning brown. For milder horseradish, vinegar may be added immediately. Should you desire a slightly sweet taste to your horseradish you may try adding grated turnip or a small bit of apple as well as a pinch or two of sugar. If you desire a stronger finished product add a touch of garlic cloves or a little mustard.

There are several varieties of horseradish available in the specialty shops and supermarkets. These selections include Horseradish sauce, Cream Style Horseradish, Beet Horseradish and the Dehydrated style Horseradish. The varieties vary slightly in their texture.

You can use your grated horseradish on sauces, being exceptionally favorable mixed in a tomato based sauce, or as an accompaniment to shellfish such as crabs, shrimp or oysters. I have also heard of it being used in mashed potatoes or in tuna. Some people brag of mixing it in their egg salad. It goes without saying that it is excellent when used with roast beef. Serve only the freshest of horseradish. To do this follow the guidelines listed below.

  • Never store up on horseradish. Buy just the amount that you would use in a reasonable length of time.

  • To protect its freshness store in a tightly enclosed container in your refrigerator.

  • Since horseradish tends to tarnish silver always serve it in a ceramic or glass bowl.

Now that you have the fundamentals of horseradish down let’s actually make some homemade prepared horseradish at this time. The canning recipe I am about to give you will make 4 half pint jars of homemade horseradish.

You will need the following list of ingredients:

1 cup of white vinegar
1 tsp of pickling salt
1 tsp of granulated sugar
1 tsp Fruit Fresh
3 cups of peeled and finely grated horseradish root

Due to the nature of the root oils start your preparations in a well ventilated room. Peel the horseradish root and proceed to cut it into one inch chunks. Place these one inch chunks in a food processor along with a few tablespoons of white vinegar and set the processor on fine grate. Remember to use caution when you remove the lid as the fumes will at this time be extremely strong. In a medium glass bowl combine the remaining white vinegar, the salt, sugar and the Fruit Fresh, stirring until the mixture is well dissolved. Now stir in the chopped horseradish. After completing the combination carefully ladles the mixture into sterilized half-pint jars ensuring that you leave a 1/2 inch head space for expansion. Wipe the rims of the jars clean and remove any air bubbles that you may notice with a plastic stirrer. Cap the jars and seal. Process the jars in a water bath canner for a period of 15 minutes.

Be sure to refrigerate the jars upon open them. This recipe is sure to delight any member of your family who cherishes the pungent flavor of horseradish.

Copyright @2008 Joseph Parish


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