Preparing Horseradish by Dr. Nate Petley
There is nothing better than that pungent mixture of horseradish, vinegar, and salt to help clear congested sinuses throughout the winter months. I make a batch every fall and use it whenever I think I’m getting sick. A little goes a long way and you’ll certainly know when you’ve eaten your limit when your head feels like it will explode and your hair stands on end! The interesting part about this heat versus that of a hot pepper is that it is very intense but short-lived. I like to start small and increase to tolerance when I’m using it medicinally.
Making your own prepared horseradish could not be any easier – simply dig, wash, chop, and puree. Throw in some salt and vinegar and you’ve got both food and medicine all in one.
Why people make projects like this sound so ridiculously difficult or tricky is beyond me! There is no need to measure anything, which means you can prepare any amount of root that you happen to dig out of the ground (or purchase from your local farmers market). [See my video on harvesting horseradish]
After you obtain (dig or purchase) your fresh horseradish (remember that the root loses its pungency the longer it sits and wilts), start by washing it well. If you can’t prepare the root soon after digging it from the ground, store it a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
With a paring knife, scrape off any flaky skin or dried rootlets and cut out any damaged parts of the root. Some swear by peeling the root, but I don’t waste my time. It doesn’t impart any foul flavor in the final product. The only reason I would consider peeling the root is if it was old and cracked with dirt trapped underneath the layers. Younger and smoother roots wash off very nicely, but consider using a potato brush to ensure no dirt.
Chop off the stem and crown. If you leave an inch or so of the crown connected, you can replant this (and any pieces of the root). If you compost it you may find new horseradish plants growing next year.
In this thicker portion of the root, I look for healthy flesh and ensure no worms or root rot has occurred. It takes a sharp knife to cut through the fibrous root.
There are two options for preparing your horseradish – doing it the ‘old-fashioned’ way with a hand grater or the quick and easy way with a food processor. Because I try to minimize the amount of airborne pungent aromas, I opt for the food processor. This also helps keep the juice off the hands and spraying into the eyes. Please note: the juice will burn any mucous membrane (eyes, nose, mouth, and anywhere else you spread it with your hands). Here, I roughly chopped the root into pieces that my food processor could work with.
Run the food processor until the roots start to break down. Timing will vary with the size and power of your food processor.
Pour in a few tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar – just enough to moisten the roots to help with the grinding process. Salt can be added at any time, but I generally add it when I add the vinegar. I added several large pinches of Kosher salt to this batch, but salt according to your own taste.
Add a little extra vinegar to keep the mixture loose enough to blend. Continue the process of grinding and adding a little vinegar until the mixture starts to look like the texture of commercially prepared horseradish (somewhat creamy and uniform in texture without any large chunks).
Run the food processor until the mixture is more like a gritty paste (or to desired consistency). Carefully transfer the horseradish to a glass jar and store it in the refrigerator where it will keep for many months.
Dr. Nate Petley is a naturopathic doctor and clinical herbalist. He lecturers throughout New England sharing his expertise in naturopathic and botanical medicine. Dr. Petley blends the art and science of herbalism in his clinic and classroom, relying on his 20 years of experience studying, wildcrafting, and making herbal medicine. .
Dr. Nate Petley | www.drpetley.com | 2016. All rights reserved. Nathaniel Petley, ND