Horseradish: Can you take the heat?

Horseradish is one of those things that you either like or don’t like. Those who like it claim it’s an “acquired taste”, but if you’re not a fan of hot-and-spicy, you’ll probably never acquire it. Horseradish lovers claim it enhances the umami experience of classic Roast Beef like nothing else can.

The root of the issue

Horseradish is a member of the good old Brassicaceae clan. They’re a big family and they’ve circulated. Horseradish’s cousins include Mustard, Broccoli, and Cabbage (in it’s many forms). One is tempted to wonder if Horseradish is actually more closely related to another relative that shares many of its outstanding characteristics – Wasabi. Both are prized for their spicy, hot tastebud-rousing qualities.

We use the root of the Horseradish plant (pictured at left) to create the familiar fibrous white condiment to which we so often say, “No, thank you.”

We’ll get to that in a minute…

The active ingredient in Horseradish is actually the same one that makes Mustard hot and spicy: allyl isothiocyanate. (pronounced “Mustard Oil”). It only effects your mucous membranes, sinuses and eyes after you liberate it by cutting into a Horseradish root or, worse yet, whizzing some in the food processor. Yikes! Stand well back from the processor drum when you remove the lid. It’ll blow your head off! We’re told that Horseradish has been cultivated since ancient times, although it was apparently used for medicinal purposes before people realized it could do wild and crazy things for food.

Make your own…

You can get a whole horseradish root at most good grocery stores or produce markets. There’s always some somewhere in an Asian Market. A nice, clean, light-coloured one is freshest.

Simply wash and peel the root, cut it into smallish chunks and whiz in a food processor until its reduced to a fine, pulpy consistency. Add Vinegar, Sugar and Salt to taste. It’ll keep in a root cellar or your fridge in a sealer jar for months.

Prepared Horseradish

The final product should resemble the photo above. Some folks like Prepared Horseradish right off the hoof while others prefer to let it age and mellow for a period of weeks to months. Some wait till next year to open and use the proceeds of last year’s crop.

 Want to know more?

The Horseradish Information Council has everything you’d ever want to know about the fiery condiment at: Seriously.

Experiment with Horseradish. One way or another, you’ll have a blast!

~ Maggie J.