Thursday, November 6, 2008

Home grown horseradish

It's the time of year to dig my horseradish. You can dig it any time after mid-summer but after the first frost is best. I have dug it as late as December, but forget it if the ground is frozen.
My plants were here when I moved here 12 years ago and haven't stopped coming back every year. Every year I dig up every root I can find and it still pops up every spring. Some growing directions state to keep a few of the roots aside to plant for next year's crop. I have never needed to do this.
First I cut the leaves down to about an inch, if that, off the ground. After digging up the roots as deep as I can get them (I never get the whole root, some are very long!) I lay them out in the yard and spray them hard with a hose, with the sprayer on 'jet' setting. You could do this inside in a sink instead, but this is easier and not nearly as messy.
Next using a 'tater peeler' I take off all of the outside layers until the remaining root is very white. For roots thicker than 1/2 inch, cut them lengthwise until they are about 1/2 inch across. Then cut crossways into about 1/2 inch slices.

The next part involves chopping the pieces in a food processor. Do this OUTSIDE, preferably with a breeze blowing, no kidding. I run an extension cord out to my porch for the processor. Grinding horseradish makes working with hot peppers look like kindergarten, it's right up there with chemical warfare.

Put an inch or two, at most, into the food processor. Having a second processor here is helpful, because the tougher pieces can scratch the plastic bowl of your processor. Keeping the processor at least at arm's length, grind the pieces down until they look like fine sawdust, or like the horseradish you see in the store. This might take 5 minutes or more, depending on the toughness of your roots. CAREFULLY remove the top of the processor and mix in about a teaspoon of salt. Pour white vinegar into the horseradish, just barely covering it. Spoon into jars or small freezer containers. If you are planning on freezing any of the jars/containers, leave about 10% of the room in the jar for expansion.
In the refrigerator it should remain pungent for a month or two. In the freezer it will remain pungent for a longer time, how long I don't know because it doesn't usually last that long in my house. The best way to keep fresh horseradish is to only dig enough to make one batch, but I like to get it all done at once.
This will light up your sandwiches, roasts, and corned beef. It's also good to add to home-canned pickle and/or pepper recipes.

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