Cooking From Memory ~ A Recipe Journal

Horseradish and Cranberry Relish


Horseradish is one of my favorite flavors; it is also an herb, a condiment, a stimulant, and an excellent source of vitamin C (23 mg per ounce). The enzyme peroxidase is extracted from the roots by the pharmaceutical industry for use by diabetics to test their blood sugar levels. Peroxidase is also used in neurobiological research.

Drawing of horseradish plant.Cultivation Once you have secured a piece of root, either from a gardening friend or from the local market, select a spot where the soil is at least 2 foot deep, and where you are sure there will be no reason to change your mind.  Once planted, your horseradish plant will be there forever; in fact, if you are not careful with the little rootlets, side roots, and the crowns when digging, you will unwittingly expand your horseradish garden in every direction.  The fertilizer I prefer is 6-24-24. It is important to limit the amount of nitrogen so that growing energy is directed into the root. Organic fertilizers like fish emulsion and liquid kelp are a better choice when available. The plant likes evenly moist soil and full sun, but will tolerate part shade. Soil Ph slightly on the acid side is preferred, but it will do well from a Ph of 5.0 to 7.5

For large straight roots, push back the soil from around the crown when the leaves are about 12 inches tall.  Smaller roots coming out the side of the main root should be cut.  Check the crown for the number of sprouts forming leaves. Cut off all those emanating from the sides of the crown so that the number of sprouts is limited to 2 or 3.   Do this again in about 4 weeks. I have never bothered with the above advice, but then, I only havest roots every other year anyway. Replant all the pieces you cut off if you want to expand your horseradish bed.  If that is not your intention, be sure to discard them in a manner which insures that you will not be starting new plants on your own property.

HarvestGardeners in zones 4 through 6 can grow a decent root in reasonable time. Cochlearia armoracia, currently known as Armoracia rusticana, prefers cold winters and deep fertile soil.  A small piece of root planted in the spring can produce a usable root in the fall, but only under ideal growing conditions. Most gardeners harvest horseradish roots after 12 to 18 months.  Roots should be dug only when the plant is not actively growing, i.e., early in the Spring as the crown is just starting to show a bit of green growth or in the fall after the second hard frost. I prefer to dig the roots in November while the soil is dry but not yet frozen.  I examine all of the crowns for suitable diameter, and flag those having diameters of not less than 1 inch.  When finished, I select the 10 to 12 largest roots for digging.  After digging them out, I cut off the crown and any side roots, and replant them in the same spot immediately.  Add some compost to the bed, and consider it put away for the winter.

Processing – Scrub the roots, then pare off the outer coating on the root with a potato peeler or a scraper.  Cut the root into small chunks (1/2″ x 3/4″). Prick out small dark spots and veins.  Cut around hollow spaces.  The roots are easily ground in a food processor.  Before grinding, open a window, or move the operation out of doors.  If the sight of a slice of onion brings tears to your eyes, choose the outdoors for grinding.  Before you begin, prepare a mixture of one cup of water and one cup of 5% distilled white vinegar.  Some recipes call for 100% vinegar, but this is quite unnecessary.  The sole purpose of adding some vinegar is to stop enzymatic reactions which control how hot the end result will be.  It is not the quantity of vinegar which is important in that regard, but the timing of the application, as you shall see in a later paragraph.  

Begin grinding as many pieces of root as the food processor will hold without packing.  After a while, the ground up root will collect around the outside walls of the grinder.  At this point, pour some of the water/vinegar mixture through the hole in the top of the grinder, until grinding action begins anew.  A course grind produces a mild product.  Grinding until the root is finer and finer makes the finished product hotter, but also smoother and easier to use.  A really fine grind requires more liquid than you will want to put into your storage jars, and will need to poured off through a strainer.  Excess liquid should be reused for additional grinding of the next batch.  Continue as before, making up additional batches of the water/vinegar mixture as needed.  Pack the ground horseradish into small jars, preferably 6 ounce to 8 ounce capacity.  They will keep in the refrigerator for four to six weeks.  If you have prepared more than you can use during that period, simply put the excess jars in the freezer where they will keep indefinitely. The method described above has been used by me for many years. It is easy, quick, and reliable.  The University of Illinois, Cooperative Extension Service recommends an alternate procedure, as follows:

“Process no more than half a container load at a time. Add a small amount of cold water and crushed ice. Start with enough cold water to completely cover the blades of the grinder. Add several crushed ice cubes. Put the cover on the grinder before turning it on.  If necessary, add more water or crushed ice to complete the grinding.  When the mixture reaches the desired consistency, add white vinegar.  Use 2 to 3 tablespoons of white vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt for each cup of grated horseradish. (One tablespoon of sugar may be substituted for the salt.) If desired, lemon juice may be substituted for the vinegar to give it a slightly different flavor.

The time at which you add the vinegar is important.  Vinegar stops the enzymatic action in the ground product and stabilizes the degree of hotness.  If you prefer horseradish that is not too hot, add vinegar immediately.  If you like it as hot as can be, wait three minutes before adding the vinegar.”

If you choose my method of adding a water/vinegar mixture, you should consider trying a 10%/90% mixture for one portion, and the 50%/50%  mixture that I use, and a 90%/10% mixture for another portion, ultimately selecting the mixture that best suits your taste. Remember that the quantity of vinegar is of little importance, except to your taste.  There must be a thousand ways to use your ground horseradish.  I was going to include several popular recipes at this point, but as I read through them, I realized that I never use horseradish in those manners, and could hardly recommend them to you.  I do suggest that you become familiar with the actual flavor because it is quite pleasant.  There are two easy ways to sample the pure flavor of horseradish.  I like to stir one teaspoon of horseradish into one tablespoon of vanilla ice milk or ice cream. The flavor is greatly enhanced when the ice milk cancels out the heat. Finally, a teaspoon of horseradish stirred into any meat gravy, any stew, any soup, any liquid or semi-liquid cooked dish adds a dash of interesting flavor which is quite pleasant for people who ordinarily would not tolerate a “hot” dish. When making sandwiches, I suggest using real mayonnaise instead of Miracle Whip for better horseradish flavor.

In one way or another, I think that I must enjoy a teaspoon of this particular flavor every day of the year.  Two more interesting facts: A factory which does nothing but grind horseradish roots is just 2 miles from my house despite the fact that 2/3rds of the nations supply of roots are grown in Southern Illinois while I live in NE Illinois. Second, we have to purchase almost 70% of our annual requirement, because I can’t grow them fast enough, despite my having about 25 plants going at the same time.

Well, I changed my mind about recipes.  The following recipe for Cranberry sauce was donated by Barfy Dog’s Mom.  My tests indicate it to be a good showcase for horseradish flavor, and an excellent accompaniment to slices of ham or turkey, on salads, and even in hamburger sandwiches.

Cranberry Relish

2 cups cranberries, 1 small onion, ½ cup sugar, ¾ cup sour cream, 2 to 4 Tbs horseradish.

Grind cranberries and onion in food processor until mixture is finely chopped. Combine sugar, sour cream and horseradish in bowl with fitted lid.  Add cranberry-onion mixture and mix well. Secure fitted lid on bowl.  Freeze sauce several hours or overnight.  Thaw 3 to 5 hours in refrigerator just before it is needed.

2 Tbs of horseradish yields a very mild flavored sauce.  3 Tbs is about right.  4 Tbs could be risky for virgin taste buds.

Enjoy!   It mades a pretty good sorbet, as well, if you sample it half-thawed.

%d bloggers like this: