Gary and I attempted our first growing and making our first batch of horseradish. Why go to the trouble of growing and making a condiment that you can buy for $2 at the grocery store, you ask? Good question, actually. But, as the food writers such as Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Pollan, whom I so deeply adore claim, there is goodness to knowing where your food comes from. And this horseradish that I’ll show you here was made with lots of love.

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Last Christmas, while we were in Southern Illinois with Gary’s parents, we were given horseradish roots from Gary’s relative who grows and makes his own. Plant them in the spring, they told us, and when the first frost hits, it’s time to harvest. Here in Florida, we had to wait until just recently to get our first true frost. Until then, as the picture above shows, the plant grew healthy and strong.

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The roots are strange in that they grow horizontally instead of creating a large taproot. I think the roots are suppose to be larger than ours, but nevertheless, our three plants had quite the mess of roots. Gary dug them up, and was careful not to damage the roots.

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Next, we chopped off all the green leaves, and power-washed the roots with the garden hose to try to get off as much of the dirt as possible.

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We then peeled all the roots that were larger than the diameter of a pencil, and chopped them into 1″ thick chunks. A vegetable peeler works just great for this task. However, once peeled, be careful: whatever the chemical that makes the horseradish “hot” is activated when the skin hits the air. So, from the moment the root is peeled until it is mixed with vinegar, it will increase in intensity.

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Next, process the roots. We used a sausage grinder that we got as a Christmas present this year (thanks, Mom!!) and it worked beautifully. A food processor will work just fine, too. Grate all the root that you have. But, at this point, BE CAREFUL–the aerosolized horseradish smell is potent! As Gary said (since his task was the grating), the smell could be efficiently used for chemical warfare. There was lots of watery eyes, coughing, and some choice words used by Gary. It would be good to try to do this process outside if you can. (Just as a political aside, if anyone wants to try to ban nuclear weapons and replace them with missiles full of horseradish or hot peppers, please count me in. My thought is that bad people will surrender pretty quickly, and no one will die. Win win situation!)

To make the horseradish, mix this in a bowl:

1 c grated horseradish
3 T vinegar
4 T water
1/2 t salt

We put them in small mason jars. Horseradish pairs wonderful with beef. We ate it with grilled beef, caramelized onions, and sharp cheddar cheese on crusty French bread. Deeeelish!


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