I don’t usually go for impulse buys at the grocery store. Trader Joe’s has certainly gotten me a few times with some sort of dark chocolate treat, but mini cookbooks of 100 Jello recipes and the “extreme values” that Jewel cashiers mumble about (like a crumpled bag of Teddy Grahams) are pretty easy to pass up. Sometimes, though, a totally random item will catch my eye and I have to have it. Like today, when I went to Gene’s Sausage Shop for eggs and yogurt and came home with a giant $10 horseradish root.
I’ve never even seen a fresh horseradish root before, let alone worked with one, but it seemed like the perfect time of year to give it a try. Horseradish is an important part of one family Easter celebration that I usually attend, eaten with ham, lamb and/or Polish sausage. There are always a few jars of it on the buffet and an ongoing discussion about where to get the freshest stuff. Well, what could be fresher than grating and preparing it yourself?
I used a pretty basic recipe to prepare my horseradish – grinding it in the food processor with a couple pinches of salt, some water and a few tablespoons of white vinegar. You can find exact proportions on plenty of other web sites, so I won’t bother with them here.
I will say that a sharp knife and a food processor are important to have on hand. First you have to peel the root, which can be very knobby. I found it easiest to use a knife instead of a vegetable peeler and, as Mark Bittman recommends in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, “acknowledge from the outset that you will lose some of the flesh.” The horseradish flesh that is, not your own – so long as you cut carefully.
From there, I used the food processor to grate the root and then used the chopping blade to grind it down even further and mix in the rest of the ingredients. You could skip the grating step though and just cut the root into pieces and grind them with the chopping blade. Whatever you do, though, don’t try to grate the root by hand. It’s a frustrating and pointless endeavor.
But having a big jar of super-fresh horseradish on hand is pretty satisfying. I’ve got a few dishes in mind for it, and I’ve already mixed it up with some grated beets for a recipe that is totally new to me: pickled eggs. We’ll see how that goes.
I’m sure there will be plenty leftover for Easter next weekend, where hopefully my jar will be the freshest on the table.