Horseradish, for the masses
The perennial root vegetable you shouldn't do without.
It’s that time of year once again. Time to make the horseradish! Horseradish is ridiculously easy to make, from a recipe point of view, and only mildly difficult, from a practical stance. The ingredients are few, and the process is easy. The only thing you need to be careful of are the fumes.
When I was a kid, my parents used to can their own salsa from a recipe my mom had handed down to her from her family (boy, I wish I had that recipe). My parents would ask us kids to leave the house when they were canning because the fumes were so strong. Horseradish isn’t that bad.
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And it is good for you. Horseradish is high in calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin C. It helps clear mucus, increases your metabolism, and can help you lose weight. But, in my opinion, most importantly, it encourages good gut flora. It seems that our Western diets, high as they are in processed foods, tend to reduce the variety of our gut flora. And that may be leading to a wide range of problems that we see in our society (even mental-health issues).
Lisa’s note: There’s a long history in many cultures of horseradish used as a digestive, too, which is why it has traditionally been paired with meat.
OK, let’s get to the nitty-gritty: How do we make this stuff? Well, first you have to have a horseradish plant.
These babies are ridiculously easy to grow. They are super hardy. Lisa ordered a few starter roots, we planted them back in June 2019, and they just took off. Horseradish was one of the first food crops we could harvest. Since it’s a perennial, you don’t have to do anything to it once established, and it will give you horseradish for years.
The nice thing is that harvesting the roots keeps the plant in check. Each year I go out and dig up about half the plant to use for horseradish sauce. Each year it grows back. The roots are what you are using for the sauce. You dig them up and wash them off.
Then you need to peel them. I just peel them with a potato peeler. Then cut them into small chunks and toss them into a blender. I use a Bullet, which works great.
You need to toss in a bit of water. The water’s sole purpose is to allow the blender to turn the horseradish into a paste. You only need to put in enough to have that happen. If the blades are spinning but the cubes aren’t being pureed, then put in more water.
After that comes any extra ingredients you want to add. A teaspoon of salt is highly recommended. Some people add in a tablespoon of sugar, or a dash of cayenne, or paprika. You’re kind of vamping after that.
But real horseradish doesn’t need anything but the final ingredient. Which is where a lot of people go wrong. You see, once you puree the horseradish, the fumes will escape, and your eyes will start watering. This is the moment when people think, “OK, time to finish this up and get it into jars so I can breathe again.” That would be a mistake. You see, the final ingredient is vinegar. And once you add it, the process that allows the horseradish to create its “heat” just stops. So, you want to let the horseradish sit for 3-5 minutes (longer if you like it hotter) before tossing in the vinegar. I recommend doing this on a nice fall day when you can open a window for ventilation.
A cup of pureed horseradish will need about a tablespoon of white vinegar. Once that is added, you can stir and transfer it to your storage jars.
We ended up with two jars this fall, and that will likely take us through the year. If you read other recipes, they say that if you store the horseradish in the refrigerator, it will last 1-3 months. This is not a recommendation, but honestly, we are just now finishing off last fall’s batch, and it’s still perfectly fine.
We considered water-bath canning the horseradish jars, but it turns out that won’t work. The heat will destroy the oils that make the horseradish hot.
We didn’t get quite as much as we thought from the roots we harvested because a few of the roots had some sort of blight inside of them.
I was able to cut around it, so it wasn’t a big deal. But if anyone knows what this is and how to prevent it, please let us know in the comments.