Are You Tough Enough to Make Horseradish?

This root is easy to grow, but ­processing it is tearful, hard work

If you’ve been smart enough to plant horseradish, your reward is at hand. Now that the tops of the horseradish plants have died back to the ground, it is time to dig up the roots and make horseradish with a kick. Add fresh homemade horseradish to cocktail sauce, horseradish sauce or your favorite baked beans, and you’ll feel that kick.
    Horseradish plants need to be grown in full sun and in a well-drained soil rich in organic matter. I grow my horseradish in a raised bed to prevent it from spreading. If you don’t confine it properly, it can be invasive.

Got Your Onions Yet?

    Or did you put last week’s column on onions away for safekeeping? Here’s your reminder: If you like growing and eating onions as much as I do, you will want to order those plants so they are delivered by late March or early April.
    Onion plants are sold in bunches of approximately 75 plants. If your soil is not ready when they arrive, they can be stored in the refrigerator. The varieties that perform well in southern Maryland are Copra, Candy, First Edition and Big Daddy.

    When harvesting horseradish roots, dig deeply with a forked spade. Make certain to remove all roots and crowns to prevent it from becoming a weed. As soon as you finish harvesting, smooth the soil and replant only single crowns 18 to 20 inches apart. Since horseradish plants tend to produce multiple crowns, you’ll need to divide them and use only single crowns. Press them into loose soil, leaving a small portion of the top visible above ground. Share the extra crowns with friends or neighbors. Do not dump extras in your compost pile unless you want horseradish plants growing wherever you spread the compost. I spread the surplus crowns in the driveway and let them bake in the sun and be run over by tires.
    Wash the roots and scrape until they are clean. I find that keeping the roots submerged while cleaning them reduces the volume of tears that you will produce during the processing.
    I use a small food processor placed on the stove under the hood with the fan operating at full capacity. Cut the roots into small pieces and process until  mushy. Let the mush remain undisturbed at least 10 minutes before adding white vinegar and salt. This allows the horseradish to achieve maximum strength. I add one to two tablespoons of vinegar and one-quarter teaspoon of salt per cup of horseradish mush. Process again until horseradish is creamy.
    Place the creamy horseradish in sterile half-pint jars and fill to the brim. Do not allow air in the jar, as oxygen causes the horseradish to lose strength. Store it in the fridge. To prevent it from losing strength, smooth the surface and flood with a little extra-virgin olive oil after each use.
    I know that I have made the best horseradish when my son-in-law’s face turns red, tears running from his eyes, and he falls to his knees crying uncle after tasting a half-teaspoonful.

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