How to Prepare Horseradish
Up until last week, I couldn’t have told you what a root of horseradish looks like. I’ve been shopping at the same Whole Foods for over 10 years, averaging at least one trip per week, and I’ve probably walked by the basket of horseradish roots over a thousand times.
It wasn’t until we got slammed with a mega heat wave here in the Midwest that I began giving horseradish some thought. Because I’ve been eating so many salads lately, I’ve been searching for a way to change up my usual dressings. Horseradish, with its fiery clean-out-your-sinuses kick, is the perfect way to liven up any ho-hum dressing.
Instead of buying prepared horseradish, I thought I’d whip out the food processor and make my own batch for a fun challenge. But really, it was no challenge at all! This condiment is one of the easiest I’ve ever made. If you’ve got a cutting board, a knife, and a food processor, you can make homemade horseradish in a flash.
WARNING: This is important, so pay attention. I learned something the hard way making my own horseradish. As soon as you drop the chopped root into the food processor, complete the rest of the recipe at an arm’s length away.
I’ll tell you what I did so that you don’t do it, too. After grinding up the root in the food processor, I took the lid off carefully, thinking that the strong fragrance would be overpowering. I didn’t smell anything at a distance and thought I had a “bad root” that had been in storage too long or something. So I leaned my head over the open bowl and took a big whiff.
After the initial shocking few seconds where I was sure someone had lit a match up my nose, I began to tear up like I’ve never teared before. Picture yourself chopping up a really strong onion. Got it? Okay, now intensify that by about a dozen and you’ve got the horseradish sensation. Needless to say, I think my sinuses will be clear for a long time.
So my warning is simple: work at an arm’s length away and whatever you do, don’t deliberately smell the horseradish! Trust me. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a bad root. Even if you don’t smell anything right off the bat, you’re good.
Now that we’ve got that squared away, let’s get cooking.
First, you want to start with a root of horseradish that’s firm and about 5-6 inches long, like this one:
Peel the root with a vegetable peeler. Cut the root into small cubes (about 1/2-inch). You should have about 1/2 cup of cubes. They’ll look like this:
Place the cubes in a small food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Remove the lid carefully and DO NOT get your nose or eyes close to the bowl. (See above for the official warning!) Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons of water. (You can also add a pinch of salt if you’d like.) Process until mealy. If you’d like a looser/smoother condiment, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time and process until you reach your desired consistency.
Even though my horseradish is more on the mealy side with quite a bit of texture, it blends very well into dressings, sauces, and scrambled eggs. It just sort of disappears and leaves nothing but flavor behind.
Store the horseradish in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It should last a good 2 weeks, maybe more. I recommend storing horseradish in a glass jar. Plastic containers absorb flavors. You might never get the scent of horseradish out of your plastic Tupperware!
Makes about 1/2 cup
1 (5-6 inch) horseradish root, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1/2 cup cubes)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons water (or more if desired)
Pinch of salt (optional)
Place the horseradish cubes in a small food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until finely chopped. Remove the lid carefully and DO NOT get your nose or eyes close to the bowl. (Trust me on this one!) Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Add the apple cider vinegar and water. Process until mealy. If you’d like a looser/smoother condiment, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time and process until you reach your desired consistency.
Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator.
Best Ways to Prepare and Use Fresh Horseradish
Question: I’m trying to get information about preserving horseradish. I ground some fresh horseradish from the market and it was flat in 24 hours. Now I’m growing my own and need any advice you can give me about this vegetable.
Answer: In “Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables” (Harper & Row, 1986), Elizabeth Schneider explains that unless horseradish is being added to a sauce or preserved in vinegar, “it should be grated directly on the food soon before eating or its volatile flavor will dissipate (and the shreds will brown).” Preceding her recipe for prepared horseradish, she advises: “Home-prepared horseradish is firmer, more aromatic, and sharper than the bottled product. Do not stock up on it, though, as it loses its character with storage.”
Those not choosing to grow their own will find horseradish root available in most produce sections just about any time of year. Choose roots that are exceptionally hard, and free of spongy or soft spots. Avoid sprouting, greenish-tinged horseradish, which may have a bitter layer that requires deep paring.
To store the fresh root, Schneider suggests wrapping it in a slightly dampened piece of toweling, then a dry one. Kept in the refrigerator, it should last for a few weeks if fresh when purchased. If softness or mold spots develop, scrape them off, omit the dampened towel and return to the refrigerator.
Peel the skin from just the amount of horseradish to be used at one time. Cutting a cross section will enable you to see the layer that needs to be removed. Root with a greenish color requires deeper paring; pale beige horseradish needs only shallow peeling. Grate with a very sharp metal grater or in a food processor.
In “Fancy Pantry” (Workman Publishing, 1986) Helen Witty gives these instructions for freezing horseradish: “Scrape fresh roots clean; wrap them airtight in plastic or foil freezer wrap and freeze them. Grate a portion of the unthawed root as needed.”
1/4 pound fresh horseradish
1/2 cup vinegar, about
1 teaspoon oil
Peel horseradish and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Place 1/4 cup vinegar and oil in food processor container fitted with metal blade. Add horseradish cubes and process to desired texture, adding vinegar, 1 tablespoon at time, as needed.
Stir in salt and sugar. Refrigerate in glass jar, tightly covered. Makes about 1 cup.
Note: Distilled white, rice or white wine vinegar may be used. Horseradish keeps for weeks, but is zestiest when fresh.