Homemade horseradish found its way to our table this week, and it’s hot – painfully hot, pleasurably hot, perfectly hot. When fresh horseradish root appears at market, which is rarely, I fight my way to it – elbowing into the stand before the other Weston A Price Foundation and fermentation enthusiasts in my community can beat me to the precious, potent and gnarled roots. I beg for first pick, “Now, Betsy,” I plead, “When you pick horseradish, let me know – I’ll buy lots and lots. I’ll buy it all.” And when the pickling cucumbers are ready for harvest come August, I ask again, but this time for the long dark green leaves which are my not-so-best-kept secret to producing a good sour pickle.
It takes a bit of forthrightness, a bit of ruggedness and unwavering determination to prepare homemade horseradish. You see, it’s a painful process – literally. Fresh horseradish is rich in volatile oils, after all, that’s what makes the root so darn tasty, but it’s these volatile oils that fill the air with an eye-burning intensity that only the most steadfast fermentation lovers can withstand in their quest for that perfect, probiotic condiment. Many recipes for homemade horseradish require vinegar which helps to set the heat level of the horseradish root, but I prefer the longer method of fermentation which imbues the condiment with a boost of beneficial bacteria.
Horseradish is a member of the brassica family – the same family of plants that fives us broccoli, cabbage, turnips and radishes – each with their characteristic biting, if mild, mustard-like flavor. That biting flavor found in brassicas and, most potently, in mustard and horseradish is due to the content of allyl isothiocynanate which is stored in an inactive form in plants and released once that plant is cut, grated or chewed as a deterrent to animals. Of course, I find it appealing especially as an accompaniment to a good beef pot roast. As a vegetable, horseradish is rich in vitamin C and folate, which are likely increased through the process of lactic acid fermentation.
- about 1 cup fresh horseradish root, (peeled and chopped)
- 1½ tsp unrefined sea salt
- 1 packet starter culture for fresh vegetables (see sources) OR (1/4 cup fresh whey)
- 2 tbsp to ¼ cup filtered water, (as needed)
- Combine peeled and chopped fresh horseradish root, unrefined sea salt and starter culture into the basin of a food processor.
- Pulse for about one minute to combine ingredients.
- Add two to four tablespoons filtered water to the ingredients and process for three to four minutes until a smooth paste forms, adding additional water as necessary.
- Take a breath, walk outside, ’cause your eyes will burn and tears will stream down your cheeks. It’s worth it though. Promise.
- Spoon the homemade horseradish mixture into a small jar, adding additional water to completely reach the top of the jar. Cover it loosely with a lid.
- Allow to ferment in a warm location in your kitchen for at least three days and up to a week, before removing to cold storage. The homemade horseradish will stay good in your fridge for several months.