Preparing a Horseradish Root
Grind or grate fresh horseradish in a well-ventilated room. The
fumes are potent – a whiff may be stronger than you expect!
Using a blender for grinding makes home preparation more practical
and less tearful than hand-grating. In either case, if you are cutting
fresh horseradish, you may want to wear gloves.
What Makes Horseradish Hot?
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, o it is best added towards the end of a dish when
cooking. Keep it cold to keep it hot!
To keep prepared horseradish (commercial or homemade) at its
flavorful best, store it in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator or in
the freezer. It will keep its good quality for about four to six weeks in
the refrigerator and for six months or longer in the freezer. Buy or
prepare only the amount of horseradish that can be used in a
reasonable time. You can store fresh roots for several months. Just
wash them, place in polyethylene bags, and store at 32 to
38 degrees F. Selecting horseradish products
If you like horseradish as hot as it can be, use fresh horseradish
roots. A good quality root is clean, firm, and free from cuts and
blemishes. The freshly peeled or sliced root and the prepared
product are creamy white. Generally, the whiter the root, the fresher
it is. When available, fresh roots will be found in the produce section.
High quality commercial or home processed horseradish has a
creamy white color, a pungent, penetrating aroma, and a hot,
biting taste. As processed horseradish ages, it darkens and loses
it pungency and in time off-flavors may develop.
Grinding Fresh Horseradish
To grate your own horseradish by hand, hold cleaned and trimmed
horseradish root firmly. Using a sharp vegetable peeler, carefully
remove the outer layer. Rub peeled horseradish root against a
fine grating surface using downward, crisscross motion. A quicker,
more efficient method uses a blender. Wash and peel the root as
you would a potato and dice it into small cubes. Place the cubes in
the blender jar. Process not more that 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 blender.
Add several crushed ice cubes. Put the cover on the blender before
turning the blender 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.
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 the
vinegar immediately. If you like it as hot as can be, wait three
minutes before adding the vinegar.
Fresh horseradish roots may also be finely shaved or grated and
added directly to a food. This simple method is frequently used by
discriminating cooks. Fine shavings may also be placed in a dish
of lemon juice to be served at the table.