We have grown horseradish for just about as long as we’ve lived here – and this summer was our 15th year. If you grow horseradish, you will never have “just a little.” It is perennial and grows and grows and spreads and spreads, and pretty soon you have more horseradish than any human can ever think about eating. People either love or hate horseradish. What do you do with it? Mix it with ketchup to make shrimp sauce. Put it in Bloody Mary’s. Mix it with sour cream to make a sauce to dip meats into – it is usually used as a dipping sauce with high-end beef dishes, such as Prime Rib. I also like it with ham and pork, and love to dip roasted sweet potatoes into the sauce. People like a bit of it in deviled eggs and potato salad. It’s good anywhere you like a little heat.
We have decided that this will be the last year we grow the horseradish, and are going to work on eradicating it to get it out of our garden. Horseradish cannot be canned, so if you are going to harvest it, you either need to put it in the refrigerator and use it within a couple months, or freeze it. If you are just doing one or two roots, it won’t take long, but if you are doing a large batch, it is pretty time consuming. Fresh, home-grown horseradish is much better than what you can buy at the store (true of any home grown food!)
First, the horseradish needs to be dug up. You should only do this in a month that has the letter “R” in it. The roots are long, white tubers, and I don’t know if there’s any way to get the entire thing. Mr says it grows all the way to the center of the earth! Cut the leaves off, and get as much dirt off as possible. Mr put them all in a wheelbarrow and filled it with water, as the roots were very muddy, so we had to use a big brush to get as much mud off as possible. I must admit here that I hadn’t planned on writing a post on this, so unfortunately I didn’t get any good “digging” and “before” root pictures.
Now it is time for the “horseradish words of warning.” Horseradish is full of oils that are volatile when the outer “bark” is removed and the root is exposed to air. I suggest doing as much of this as you can outdoors, and if you do any of it indoors, be sure to open as many doors and windows as possible. Don’t stand over the food processor or blender when you take the lid off. Trust me. I literally went through probably 10 tissues today, so know that it will definitely clear your sinuses when you process it!
Using a knife and a avegetable peeler, peel the brown “coating” off the root. Next, cut the root into cubes that are no bigger than 1”. I will tell you that these roots are HARD. Cutting through larger roots takes serious work. There will probably be parts of the root that are brown or yucky. Get rid of those. You only want the pieces that are pretty white with no blemishes and are not limp. After it is cut up, run it under water several times to get any dirt or coating off.
Now you are ready to process. I will tell you what works for me, as I like mine blended pretty fine. First I have to put some into a food processor in order to get it shredded up fairly well. If you like yours somewhat chunky, you don’t have to put it in a blender. Otherwise, put the shredded horseradish into a blender (I did about 3 cups at a time.) Add about 5 pieces of ice-maker ice and about ⅔ cup cold water, along with about 1 t salt. Blend until smooth-ish. I had to keep taking the lid off and pushing the horseradish down in order to get it smoothed out. The next step is to put in the vinegar. I used ⅓ cup. Grating horseradish crushes the cells of the root, releasing the volatile oils, which give horseradish its heat. Adding vinegar stops this enzymatic reaction. The longer you wait to add the vinegar, the hotter your horseradish will be. I wait about 5 minutes or more, as I like it hot. If you don’t like it very hot, add the vinegar immediately. Once you add the vinegar and begin blending, the mixture should look sort of like a milkshake blending up. It shouldn’t be too runny.
So my basic recipe here is: For every 3 cups of shredded horseradish, add about 5 ice cubes, 2/3 Cup cold water, 1 tsp salt, and 1/3 C vinegar.
Now all that is left is to pour it into jars, wipe the rims, and put on the lids. You can use any jar, as these are not going to be processed, they will just go into the freezer. The last time I processed horseradish was 5 years ago, and I have 2 jars left. As far as I can tell, they don’t go bad, as every jar I have used has been fine.
I had 10 pounds of cut-up, cleaned horseradish, and I ended up with 42 jars of various sizes, generally ½ pint. Ridiculous. Mr cleaned the rest of the roots today, so I have enough to do about 12-15 more jars tomorrow. Oh, goody. Trust me, I give a lot of it away. Thank goodness we have 2 freezers.