Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Hail The Hearty Horseradish! Make Your Own Tangy Horseradish Sauce

Amy Jeanroy talks you through everything you need to know about horseradish -- from growing it in your garden to a tangy homemade horseradish sauce.

horseradish roots at a market

Photo: Amy Jeanroy

Horseradish is easy to grow. In fact -- a little too easy. Any bit of root left in the ground will grow a whole new horseradish plant, sometimes taking over a whole garden bed of less enthusiastic neighbors.

For many, horseradish means buying a little jar at the store and adding it to ketchup. But the truth is, horseradish is an easy and delicious way to add some zing to salads, sauces and sandwiches.

Horseradish is easy to grow. In fact — a little too easy. Any bit of root left in the ground will grow a whole new horseradish plant, sometimes taking over a whole garden bed of less enthusiastic neighbors.

Fortunately, you can easily control it by planting in a pot and burying the whole thing in the ground. I buried mine at the end of the garden three years ago. It has filled up the 50 gallon container about half-way with big, healthy plants, but hasn’t escaped yet.

Use Every Part

In the spring, I cut the leaves and add them fresh but finely chopped, to my salads. The roots are thin and soft, perfect to coarsely grind and liven up the dishes from the pantry that might be getting boring after such a long winter.

But the real heat comes from fall roots. Wait until the frost kills the leaves and then dig up the thick, tap roots. Be ready for a workout, they grow unbelievably deep.

Although it is easy to grow, horseradish does need to go dormant, so the energy of the plant is forced into the roots. All the Northern gardeners can rest assured, a single root can soon grow into a large enough crop of horseradish to keep you supplied all year long.

Why Is It So Hot?

What makes horseradish so hot? In a word, isothiocyanates, or a type of mustard oil is the culprit.

A simple trick to control the heat? Adding a splash of acid. Traditionally that means vinegar, but some people add lemon juice instead. Not only does adding the acid keep the volatile oils from choking you as you grind it, it also keeps the horseradish from oxidizing (turning brown)and losing flavor.

So how do you make your own horseradish? I thought you would never ask…

Make Your Own Horseradish Sauce

Start with about 2 pounds of horseradish root. This will grate to about 2 cups of of product.

Seriously, prepare horseradish outside. Wash the roots and chunk them, no need to be perfect here, just make small enough pieces to fit evenly around the food processor blade.

Pour in vinegar. For two pounds of root, start with 1/3 cup of vinegar. Add a pinch of salt and start the processor. You are trying to make a slurry, so feel free to add more vinegar through the top of the processor as you go.

Once the horseradish is sufficiently ground and you have a wet looking mess, you are done! Keep your face away from the lid as you remove it, or the fumes will burn your eyes and throat.

Use clean pint or 1/2 pint jars with lids and fill with your finished horseradish. Leave about 1/4 inch headspace and put on new lids. Keep in your fridge for 6 months without worry, but your fresh horseradish sauce will be so delicious, that I doubt it will last that long!

What To Do With Horseradish

Now that you have it, what to do with it? Here are a few ideas:

  • Add to mayo, ketchup or mustard
  • Add to cheese sauces or mashed potatoes
  • A spoonful mixed into sour cream, will be fantastic on a baked potato
  • For a decadent treat, whip fresh cream and fold in horseradish. This cream sauce is a staple with roast beef dishes

Your imagination is the limit with a spicy jar of fresh ground horseradish from the garden. The only warning, cooking horseradish seems to remove the flavor. Add it at the very end of the cooking process and you will retain the most flavor. Have fun!

Amy Jeanroy

Amy Jeanroy lives on a small family farm in Nebraska. She and her family raise organic produce, milk, eggs and meat for sale. When she is not tending to the goats and gardens, Amy works as a freelance writer on gardening and green living topics, with a frugal touch. She is the Herb Gardens Guide for About.com, as well as the author of Canning and Preserving For Dummies, 2nd edition, 2009.

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  • Ann Winberg

    Amy,
    Hello fellow Nebraskan. I am not sure if my comment went through or not so am resending it.
    We too grind our own horseradish around 10 gallon every year with friends. The last few years it has started turning brown on us after a couple of months. We are doing it exactly the same as always. We use white vinegar, salt a bit of sugar and even use Fruit Fresh. It never used to turn but the last 4 or 5 years it has every year. It tastes fine but it sure doesn’t look very appetizing. Any ideas?
    Ann

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