Horseradish is native to Eastern and Central Europe and possibly Western Asia. It has been grown for its roots for over 2,000 years. The Oxford Companion to Food notes that the first written mention of the root was probably in the 13th century, when a root with the description of horseradish was mentioned in a text describing medicinal cures. Its use as a condiment came later, based on the earliest known written documentation from the 15th century.
The English word “horseradish” has nothing to do with horses or radishes. The word “horse” formerly meant “coarse” or “rough.” “Radish” comes from the Latin “radix,” meaning “root.” Horseradish is not a type of radish, although they are in the same family.
In Slovenia and in the Italian regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto, horseradish (often grated and mixed with sour cream, vinegar, hard-boiled eggs or apples) is also a traditional Easter dish. Further west in the Italian regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont, it is called “barbaforte (strong beard)” and is a traditional accompaniment to Bollito Misto; while in the Italian northeastern regions of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, it is still called “kren” or “cren”.
Horseradish is in the Brassica family, which includes broccoli, radishes, kohlrabi, cauliflower and kale. It is a perennial in most locations in the US and will spread rapidly in the garden from season to season, if not contained properly. Horseradish plants have large, deep green, spoon-shaped leaves (which are edible), large, deep-growing roots and very fragrant white flowers. The bulk of US horseradish cultivation is in southwestern Illinois, near the banks of the Mississippi River (near St. Louis), where the root has been grown commercially for over 150 years. Cool weather helps give horseradish its pungency, so it is generally harvested from mid-fall right through to early spring.
Horseradish growers employ a wide range of herbicides, including glyphosate (aka RoundUp) to control both weeds and spreading horseradish plants (because horseradish spreads so easily. Other pesticides are used to control insect infestations and disease. If you are concerned about pesticide use in horseradish cultivation, look for organic horseradish at your local farmers’ market.
Horseradish roots are large, tapering to a point, with a dark brown peel and a creamy white interior. Horseradish’s bite comes from the release of compounds when the root is grated (without grating and exposure to air, horseradish roots really don’t smell like much of anything). Vinegar stops this chemical process, which is why most commercial horseradish preparations contain vinegar. For really hot horseradish, leave the grated root exposed to the air for a few minutes (longer than that, it starts to discolor and dry out). For milder horseradish, add vinegar right away.
What to look for:
Look for firm roots with no mushy or black spots. Avoid roots that are floppy or dried out. You can find horseradish root in the produce section of some grocery stores and at farmers’ markets.
What to Do with It:
Grated horseradish root makes delicious sauces and condiments. It is perfect paired with beef, seafood and roasted vegetables. You can stir freshly grated root (or prepared horseradish) in to mustard for a spicy sauce or mix it with ketchup to make a cocktail sauce for seafood.
Horseradish root is generally not cooked, but grated and mixed with vinegar or other condiments to make sauces. Cooking grated horseradish greatly diminishes the flavor and pungency of the root, so add horseradish at the end of cooking, off the heat. Horseradish root can be used in a number of creative ways in the kitchen. The grated root is commonly mixed with dairy products (like cream, sour cream and crème fraiche) to tame its peppery bite. Also try stirring some horseradish into your next batch of vinaigrette, make a horseradish dip or fold some grated horseradish into mashed potatoes. Creamy horseradish sauce is commonly served with roast beef, but is equally good with salmon, scallops, roasted vegetables (especially potatoes and beets) and, of course, stirred into Bloody Mary mixes.
Some recipes call for fresh horseradish to be grated in a food processor (convenient if you have a large batch to grind), but a Microplane zester makes the best grated horseradish, if all you need is a tablespoon or two. Many recipes for grating your own horseradish recommend that you do so outdoors or in a very well ventilated place and wear gloves and eye protection. The volatile oils that are released from horseradish that is grated are very pungent.
- 1 1/2 pounds Horseradish root = 680 g = 2 3/4 cups grated
- 1 tablespoon of fresh grated Horseradish = 2 tablespoons bottled
- 1/2 cup grated horseradish = 3 oz / 7 g
A Few Facts:
- An enzyme found in horseradish, called horseradish peroxidase, is widely used in biochemical research.
- Horseradish is toxic to horses.
- Don’t put your horseradish sauce in a silver serving dish: the grated root can tarnish the metal.
- Horseradish is commonly used as one of the “bitter herbs” required at Passover Seder.
Uncut horseradish roots will keep for several weeks in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Cut horseradish should be used right away. Grated fresh horseradish, preserved in vinegar, will keep for several months in the refrigerator. Peeled and grated horseradish can be stored in sealed bags or containers in the freezer for a few months.
How to make prepared horseradish for your recipes:
- 1 pound fresh horseradish root
- 8 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Peel and coarsely grate the fresh horseradish root. Combine grated horseradish, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar and salt in a food processor; pulse 4 or 5 times or until the horseradish begins to break down. Add the remaining vinegar, a tablespoonful at a time, until the mixture forms a coarse paste. Transfer mixture to a jar and refrigerate for up to 1 month.
Apple Horseradish Sauce
In Trentino, Italy, cooked apples and fresh horseradish are served with roasted beef, chicken or pork dishes. Cream is added to the sauce to temper the sharpness of the horseradish.
- 3 pounds McIntosh or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 5 ounce piece of fresh horseradish root
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
In a heavy 3 or 4-quart saucepan with a cover, place the apple chunks and toss with the lemon juice and salt. Cover the pan, and set it over medium-low heat. Cook the apples slowly for 15 minutes, stirring several times, as they soften. Remove the cover, raise the heat to bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes or until the juices are syrupy and the apples are very soft. Turn off the heat.
Peel the horseradish and grate it into fine shreds, until you have at least 1/2 cup, for a milder taste, or 1 cup, for a stronger taste.
With a potato masher, crush the apples into a chunky sauce. Stir in the grated horseradish and cream and pour into a serving bowl. Serve warm or cold.
Roasted Beet Salad with Horseradish-Dill Sauce
- 4 medium beets, washed and trimmed
- 1/4 cup low fat sour cream
- 1/4 cup low fat Greek yogurt
- 1 clove garlic, grated on a Microplane grater (or chopped very fine)
- 1 tablespoon (or more, to taste) freshly grated horseradish
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Pinch cayenne
- Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Lettuce for serving
To roast the beets:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wrap the beets, two at a time, in aluminum foil. Place the beets on a baking pan and roast until tender. The amount of time will vary by the size and even variety of the beet; but start checking around 45 minutes, as it could take as long as 40-45 minutes more. Use the tip of a sharp knife to test; if the knife goes into the beets with little resistance, they are done.
For the horseradish-dill sauce:
Whisk together the sour cream, Greek yogurt, garlic, horseradish, lemon juice, cayenne and salt (to taste). Gently fold in the chopped dill. Cover and refrigerate while the beets are roasting to let the flavors blend.
When the beets are done, let cool slightly, then peel or rub the skins off with a paper towel. Slice into 1/4 inch thick slices, gently toss with the extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt, and arrange on a platter over lettuce. Drizzle with some of the horseradish-dill sauce. (Serve extra on the side.)
Italian Baked Clams with Horseradish
- 12 littleneck or cherrystone clams, opened; top shell discarded
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup freshly grated horseradish
- 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned panko crumbs
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 lemon, halved
Preheat the broiler in your oven. Place clams in their half shells on a baking pan; drizzle with olive oil and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine horseradish and panko crumbs; sprinkle over clams and lightly pat down. Squeeze the juice from 1 of the lemon halves over the clams and drizzle with olive oil.
Place clams under the broiler and cook until crumbs are light golden and bubbly, about 5-6 minutes. Drizzle clams with the white wine halfway through cooking.
Transfer clams to a serving plate..
Cut remaining lemon half into 4 wedges and serve with the clams.
Italian Beef Sandwiches With Horseradish Sauce
Makes enough for 10 sandwiches
- 2 1/2 – 3 lb boneless chuck roast
- 3 cups beef broth
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, if cooking in the oven
- 1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
- 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 10 whole wheat rolls
- 1 white onion, sliced thin
- 10 slices provolone cheese or cheese of choice
For the beef cooked in the oven:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.
Liberally sprinkle the entire roast with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the roast on all sides until golden brown. Add the remaining beef ingredients and place the pot in the oven. Cook the roast, turning every 30 minutes, until very tender, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and tent with foil. Once cooled a bit, shred the meat into smaller pieces for the sandwiches.
For the beef cooked in a slow cooker:
Place roast in slow cooker and add the remaining beef ingredients, except the oil, over the top of the meat.
Cover and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours. Slice or shred the meat.
For the horseradish sauce:
Mix everything together. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To assemble the sandwiches:
Preheat the broiler. Toast the rolls.
Spread a little horseradish sauce on both sides of the toasted rolls.
Add a layer of beef, top with sliced onion and then a piece of provolone cheese.
Place under the broiler for a minute or two until the cheese is melted.
Horseradish Asiago Crusted Salmon
- 4 – 6 oz. skinless salmon fillets
- 3/4 cup fresh shredded horseradish root
- 3/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese
- 1/4 cup butter (melted)
- Olive oil
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
- 1 lime
- 1 cup low fat sour cream
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and ground white pepper to taste
For the Dijon sauce:
Mix the ingredients together and refrigerate until serving time.
For the salmon:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl combine grated horseradish, Asiago, melted butter and rosemary.
Brush each salmon fillet with olive oil and coat with the Asiago cheese mixture.
Place each fillet on a well-oiled baking pan and bake until golden brown (about 15 minutes)
Remove from the oven to a serving platter and drizzle with the Dijon sauce. Serve with fresh lime.
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