Sunday, October 12, 2014

How To Make Horseradish

I moved into my current home 18 years ago in 1996 and there was already a small horseradish plot in the back yard near the garden area.  It comes back every year, and I have to control it to keep it contained in its area, which is about 8 by 3 feet.  If you are thinking about planting horseradish roots, think ahead and plan an area that will be horseradish until doomsday.

Making prepared horseradish isn't rocket science, just take one simple precaution.  When you grind it, do it outside, on the porch for example.  If you have to do it inside, open some windows and run a fan.  The first year that I made it my son was 5 years old and he looked at me while I was grinding it and said "Dad, your face is all red!"  I looked in the mirror and my face was beet red from the fumes.


Move the leaves aside, or cut them off at ground level.  Compost them, mulch them, burn them, whatever.  I can't think of another use for them, especially since my chickens won't even eat them, and my chickens will  eat just about anything.  For example, they LOVE chicken!

Start your shovel about 8 to 12 inches from the base of the plant and go as deep as you can go.  Then work your way around the plant and dig a circle around the entire plant.  Before lifting it up out of the ground with your shovel, try to remove as much of the dirt as possible so that you can see where the roots are and how long they are.  I have dug a foot deep and still missed a lot of the root!

Lift it out of the ground, it usually takes quite a bit of leverage from the shovel to lift it out.  You will probably miss some of the root, especially with hard soil like mine, but don't worry, there should be plenty of it anyway.  Here is a section of root after it was pulled out of the ground.

Next you want to remove the excess soil from the root.  I guess you could do this in your sink, but I know my wife would have me sleeping in the shed for a while if I did that.  I enjoy a warm bed inside at night so I rinse it off outside with a hose, on the jet setting if you have a head that is adjustable.

It should look like this when the soil is removed.

If the roots are nice and straight, they are much easier to peel.  But large, gnarly pieces as seen above can be broken up into pieces like this that can be more easily worked with a potato peeler.

Scrape the root with a potato peeler until all of the brown outer layer is removed.  It should look about like this after it is peeled.  In this picture you can see a couple of brown spots that I had to cut out with a knife.


Next chop it with a good, strong knife into about 1" chunks or smaller.  Try to keep them approximately the same size, this will help to keep the grinding consistent.

Use a blender or food processor, however I highly recommend that you use one with a NON-plastic bowl.  You are basically grinding wood and a plastic food processor or blender will get terribly fogged from scratches.  I learned this the hard way the first year that I made it.
This is approximate, but for every cup of horseradish root, add about 3/4 cup of white vinegar, a teaspoon of salt, and totally optional would be to add 2 teaspoons of sugar.
Grind about 2 cups at a time, adding slowly to get to that point.  Grind it WITH the vinegar added, otherwise it will not grind well, if at all.  You will get a feel for how much vinegar to add as it starts to grind.  Just look for the consistency of store-bought horseradish.  Adding vinegar helps it to grind in the blender, but you don't want to add too much and end up with horseradish soup.
I grind it a lot, probably 3-4 minutes or longer for every 2 of cups of horseradish.

At this point you are basically done, but now to package it.  Horseradish is NOT to be canned, rather it should be frozen, except for a jar that you want to keep in the refrigerator for fresh eating.  The easiest way, and the way I normally do it, is to place it in freezer containers.  I would recommend using half-pint containers unless you eat a lot of horseradish, then you can place it in pints (or larger.)  I don't use large containers because horseradish starts to lose its pungency after a couple of months.   I keep one half-pint in the refrigerator and keep the rest frozen.
This next pic is something that is totally optional.  In fact, this is the first time I have experimented with it.  Jars of food can easily break when frozen, so I am trying to suck the air out of the jars before I freeze them.  This is my FoodSaver V3880 vacuum sealer, which I love.  So far, the half-pint jars have not broken in the freezer, I may or may not be onto something here.  I will follow up with more info if I have any problems.

Here is the final product ready to be frozen, when I had some in half-pint jars and some in pint jars.  However, after this pic was taken I decided not to use any pint jars and split them into 2 half-pint jars each.

As you can see, it is a simple process but it is a lot of peeling and grinding.  If you like horseradish like me, you will LOVE making your own.

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