Home Grown Horseradish is Better than Commercially Made
Memories of Days Gone By...
Another one of the memories of growing up in Downeast Maine, was fresh, home grown horseradish. If you like the flavor of horseradish, you will love this, which is a lot more than a tang. Just a few of these plants will suffice for your family. It is related to mustard. The tender spring leaves from horseradish will add a mustard-like taste to your ham or favorite cheese sandwich, with its hot taste, but it is usually grown for the root. These plants will do best in a cold climate, and it is best to save these for container gardening, as it will spread profusely. Water it upon occasion and give it a bit of manure and if you’d prefer to grow it outside, do it in a bottomless 5-gallon bucket.
Horseradish grows from a root cutting. Any of the secondary roots has a number of side roots growing from the upper portion of the main root. Cut them off straight-sided where they join the main root. Trim off the root tip at a slant in the fall, when you harvest your crop. Store the cuttings in damp sand in your root cellar until late winter or very early spring, when you can get into the garden to plant it. Dig 6-inch deep trenches in heavy and fertile, well-tilled soil. You can make rows a foot apart and space the plants the same. Lay in the root cutting at a 45 degree angle, the straight-cut and thicker end to the top. Cover so that the top of the root is three inches underground. Pack soil firmly around the roots.
Some people are of the opinion that the roots taste best when small and that harvesting should begin as soon as the roots are well begun. Some feel that the roots are best after a few frosts. You can dig up the roots the fall after they have been planted, from September until the ground freezes. You can also dig up in early spring before the leaves start. Just remember that horseradish has its biggest growth spurt in late summer and early fall, so you’d get your best harvest in the fall. Harvesting also keeps the plants from spreading, and any root or piece of a root will grow again. About four days prior to harvest, remove the tops of the ones that you plan to remove as near to the ground as possible. That will make them die back. After digging, use as soon as possible or store in your root cellar.
The roots keep best in the ground, so most people will dig them up as needed. If you must dig and have to wait to use them, store them layered in damp sawdust or sand in an outdoor pit or root cellar. They will keep 4-6 months between 32-40 degrees F with a 90-95% humidity.
Wear gloves when working with horseradish, and keep the juice away from your eyes and any cuts. The flavor comes from the oil that they contain. Scrub the roots well, and don’t worry about how they look. Peel off the brown outer skin with a peeler. Put them in cold water right after peeling to keep them from turning dark. Then put them in a blender food processor, or grate by hand. They will make you cry. Put them into small jars.
Add white or distilled vinegar to moisten the horseradish and to keep it from turning color. Add a half cup vinegar for each cup of grated horseradish. Pack in jars and tightly cap. Get the product bottled as quickly as possible, and refrigerate to keep it spicy. Generally, make it as needed, as it will lose the heat. If the vinegar evaporates, replace it as it will turn dark and lose its flavor.
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Mix grated root with a bit of vinegar and heavy cream. It is wonderful with burgers.
Mix equal proportions horseradish and mayo. Make sandwiches with watercress, thinly sliced tomato, radishes, or cucumbers.
Chill a half cup of sour cream and whip until stiff. Add half tsp. sugar or a pinch salt and whip more. Fold in two Tbsp. of your prepared horseradish. Add a Tbsp. chopped parsley or chives, a Tbsp. vinegar or a pinch of cayenne pepper, or a half tsp. prepared mustard, or a dah Tabasco sauce, or a quarter tsp. pepper. Serve with ham or meatloaf.
Melt a Tbsp. butter and blend in a Tbsp flour(or if wheat intolerant like me), cornstarch. Add a cup of water or soup stock. Cover and heat just to boiling. Stir in a half cup freshly grated horseradish, a Tbsp. lemon juice, then salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for two minutes and serve. This is terrific with beef tongue or roast beef.
Enjoy your horseradish and share with your friends who have it on their shopping list. Once you have the home grown, you’ll never go back to commercially prepared horseradish again. I guarantee it!