Monday, May 29, 2006


Preparing Horseradish

Today in the U.S. it is Memorial Day, a day we honor and remember people who have died in battle. For such a somber holiday, it is also considered the start of summer, and therefore typically involves a barbeque with friends and family.

This year I cannot help but think about all the mothers and children, fathers, husbands and wives, brothers, sisters and grandparents and friends for whom this is no longer a day for a barbeque, but is suddenly a day they are in mourning for their lost loved ones. Since the beginning of the current conflict in Iraq more than 2400 U.S. soldiers have died, and for those families, the beginning of summer is not exactly something to celebrate.

(And now for the culinary stretch...) It is with that in mind that I am posting this simple technique for preparing horseradish, a common bitter herb. It is perfect with roast beef, over salmon, asparagus, mixed into salad dressings, and of course, is an essential ingredient in Bloody Mary’s.

1 8 inch piece of fresh horseradish
2 teaspoons white vinegar

Optional additions:
1 cup sour cream pinch of paprika1 garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons beet juice

Open the windows in your kitchen. The fumes can be quite potent. Peel the root with a sharp knife and cut into ½ inch pieces. Pulse in your food processor with the vinegar until it becomes smooth.

If using the additional ingredients (this will make it horseradish cream) add and pulse a few additional times.

The horseradish will be quite pungent the first day or so, and will stay quite strong if sealed and stored in the fridge, for up to six weeks.


The sharp and piquant flavor and the penetrating smell of horseradish become apparent when the root is grated or ground. This is because the root contains highly volatile oils which are released by enzyme activity when the root cells are crushed. In processed horseradish, vinegar stops this reaction and stabilizes the flavor. So the degree of heat is determined by when the vinegar is added to the fresh horseradish. For milder horseradish, the vinegar is added immediately. If exposed to air or stored improperly, horseradish loses its pungency rapidly after grinding. Fresh horseradish also loses flavor as it cooks, so it is best added towards the end of a dish when cooking. –

You are, as always, fantastic. I love horseradish. So many of the commercially prepared ones have gluten in them! So now, I know how to make my own.

You indicated that adding vinegar to grated or ground horseradish stabilizes the flavor, and for milder horseradish it is best to add the vinegar immediately.

My objective is to make the strongest horseradish possible, but I must grind it at least a few days ahead. When do I add the vinegar? Must it be white vinegar or can I use red wine vinegar? And what about other flavorings, such as sugar or beet juice? Does the size or relative weight of the fresh horseradish root play any part in determining the eventual strength?

Thanks for your wisdom!

Rosalie. I would stay away from red wine vin and stick with white or apple cider vin. I have never added anything else, so that is up to your taste. The freshness of the root is mostly what affects the taste, though of course, some are just naturally stronger...
I hope that answers your questions!
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