Hey hot chile lovers. Have you ever tasted the fearsome kick of fresh horseradish?
Drop the sriracha and go for the burn of fresh horseradish, a raw puree made from this gnarly perennial root in the mustard family. Horseradish is loaded with antioxidants and Vitamin C but nobody loves it because it aids digestion. Horseradish is a thrill-ride condiment that clears your sinuses and makes you weep! It may be served on its own, tempered by cream or mayonnaise, used as an ingredient to crank up the heat in cocktail sauce, or lend its distinctive flavor to a recipe.
The European horseradish root is a member of the mustard family. It’s also a cousin to both red radishes and pale green Japanese wasabi — an even more powerful but softer root grated by hand at high end sushi bars. Horseradish heat comes from volatile mustard oil (isothiocyanate) that’s preserved by acid. So the natural partner of horseradish is vinegar, which also helps lift the flavor.
For nearly half my life one of my Spring rituals has been making fresh horseradish, a traditional accompaniment at the Passover seder. I always make extra because fresh horseradish is a rarity and, as I’ve discovered, there are legions of fans! One of my favorite simple snacks is an open face avocado and fresh horseradish sandwich on white bread or cracker. The French, who eat red radishes with butter, gave me that idea but this won’t come as news to any diehard horseradish lover.
So let’s get down to business here. First, I rinse the root to remove any soil clinging to it. Then I start removing the thin skin with a vegetable peeler.
The top of the root — where the leaves grow — can be gnarly and chambered. That can be peeled or sliced away. Cut out any black spots.
Cut the root with a sharp, heavy knife as needed to create pieces of workable size for peeling.
Then cut the peeled root into 1/2-inch cubes. From this point forward be sure to protect your eyes and nose which can become very irritated by the volatile fumes released when horseradish is ground! Warning: do not stick your face into the food processor to sniff it. Once you start grinding you’ll see why. My eye makeup is always a mess by the time I’m finished.
Put the root cubes into the food processor fitted with the metal knife blade. The dry processed texture should be as fine as possible.
With the processor running, drizzle in the vinegar-salt water very slowly. Scrape down the side of the container, to get the dry bits incorporated, then continue processing until the mixture is moist and slushy. Immediately pack the grated horseradish into an airtight container of any size. I like to refrigerate it a day or two before serving so the vinegar blends in well.
(Photos: Lisa Deyo)
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