Horseradish root is very hard, with a coarse, light yellowish brown skein and pale flesh. Shaped something like a carrot, it usually grows to about a foot long. When scraped or grated, it releases a volatile oil and a pungent, sharp aroma that can bring tears to the eyes. Fresh horseradish has a sharper flavor than prepared horseradish.
Horseradish is one of the bitter herbs mentioned in the Exodus story of the Old Testament. It originated in the vast region that spans Eastern Europe and western Asia. It was know to many ancient civilizations and was used as a remedy for ills ranging from coughs to gout. Horseradish eventually made its way into Scandinavia and England, where it became popular as a sauce for beef.
Horseradish now grows abundantly in North American and many parts of the world.
Although it's available year round, fresh horseradish is sometimes hard to find because prepared horseradish has become so common. It's most abundant during the spring and again in the late fall, and is nearly always available during the Jewish holidays, when observers want it with the tops on for the Seder table.
Horseradish root should be very hard, not limp, with no signs of withering or soft spots.
Wrap the root in a slightly damp a paper towel, place in a paper bag, and refrigerate in the crisper, where it will keep for several weeks. Always use paper instead of plastic bags to avoid condensation, which will encourage rot. If the roots look like they are beginning to shrivel or go soft in spots, prepare them immediately. Prepared horseradish will keep a long time but it will gradually lose its pungency - even if frozen.
Wash the root thoroughly and peel. If any green flesh lies immediately under the skin, peel it off because it will be very bitter. If the center of the root appears hard and woody, cut out and discard it as well.
A small amount of horseradish can be grated by hand over food just before serving. Larger amounts are more easily prepared in a food processor or blender. First, using a knife, chop the root into small pieces, then process until finely chopped but not liquefied. Immediately add lemon juice or vinegar to keep it from turning brown (which will happen quickly once it's exposed to air). Add some grated beet, if you wish, to give the horseradish a more attractive color. For a touch of sweetness, add some apple or grated turnip along with a pinch of sugar. For extra pungency, add a touch of mustard or garlic.
Grated raw horseradish combines well with cream, yogurt, or mayonnaise for sauces. It is excellent in a tomato-based sauce - -catsup will do - to accompany shrimp, crab, raw oysters, or other seafood cocktails.
Horseradish is also wonderful in mashed potatoes and in tuna and chopped - egg salads. It is great with beef and with a variety of meats, and delicious mixed with mayonnaise and spread on roast beef or turkey sandwiches. Horseradish is an interesting addition to vinaigrettes, and it adds zip when sprinkled over soups, especially borscht and creamed soups such as potato or leek.
For a juicy, great-tasting hamburger, mix grated fresh horseradish into the meat before grilling.
Creamy Horseradish Sauce
Smoked Trout With Horseradish Sauce
Other recipes from Produce Pete.