Dateline: 3 March 2014
|Some horseradish roots from my garden. |
Under that innocent exterior is an unpleasant surprise for the the novice root grinder.
I made a few jars of ground horseradish last week. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's the story, from the beginning....
Some of you reading this will recall that I used to post a single, end-of-the-month "blogazine." In my October 2012 Blogazine I wrote about Long's Horseradish, a 5th generation family business down in Lancaster, PA. Marlene was visiting a friend down that way and brought me back a couple jars of Long's ground horseradish root, which I loved.
I was inspired by Marlene's gift of horseradish to grow my own roots and did so last year. I planted four roots in my garden. Here's a picture of the young, healthy plants from last year…
I dug up the roots last fall, washed the biggest ones off, and put them in plastic bags in the fridge. I figured they would keep there and I could grind them into Kimball's Horseradish in the winter, when I had more time.
I surrounded a bunch of the smaller roots in a ball of leaves, which I buried slightly in the garden, then heaped soil over the top. I will replant those roots in the spring. But I will not plant them in my garden again. They will be planted here and there around the perimeter of the apple trees I planted last spring. Horseradish is supposed to be a good perennial for permaculture "food forest" plantings.
The roots in the fridge kept pretty well in the bags (which I perforated with knife slits) though they did dry out some. The roots were in the fridge around four months. I can be a procrastinator, especially when it comes to doing new things.
But last week I finally got around to grinding the roots. My how-to guide was an article by Jim Long in the Fall 2013 issue of Heirloom Gardener magazine (pictured above). This Online How-To is pretty much identical to the instructions in the magazine article.
I began by using a vegetable peeler and a paring knife to remove the soiled exterior of the roots, as this next picture shows…
|Peeled root (top). |
Unpeeled root (bottom).
Click pictures to see enlarged views.
Peeling wasn't hard or objectionable work, and the exposed root had a fresh sweet-pungent horseradish smell.
Next, I cut the peeled root pieces into chunks and rinsed them off…
|Horseradish roots, peeled, chunked, and washed—ready for grinding.|
The Long's Horseradish people use an old horseradish grater to grind their roots. But the modern way is to use a food processor. Our food processor is a real cheap model that I bought years ago to slice garlic cloves—back when I had a nice little home business making Herrick's Homegrown Garlic Powder.
I turned the grinder on and started dropping chunks of root into the twirling blades. Apparently, I fed them in too fast, or they were too big, because, with the contents partially ground, one of the blades sliced part way into a root-chunk and jammed there. I had to take the cover off and fix the problem. When I took the cover off, the fumes were surprisingly intense.
I continued to grind, the chunks continued to jam, I continued to take the thing apart and unjam the works, and the fumes got worse.
My eyes watered and stung. Tears started running down my cheeks. My nose was flowing. It was kind of funny at first. Then I cut my finger on one of the processor blades while removing a stuck root chunk. And the fumes became more intense.
I started working faster. Horseradish bits were all over the table, the kitchen floor, and me. I was almost blind, squinting out of one eye, then the other, working at arm's length, trying to get the job done. Finally, I couldn't take it any more and had to run for fresh air. I hung half my body out the living room window and did the farmer's nose-blow.
My wife kept her distance and thought it was all kind of comical. She opened some windows in the kitchen for ventilation. At this point I had been working at trying to grind the roots for around 20 minutes. I way maybe halfway done.
I really don't have words to describe how intensely unpleasant this episode in my life was. I have seen movies of prison guards in training, being tear-gassed in a closed building for a few minutes, then coming out. Mucous membranes in the nose produce more fluid than you ever thought possible. Some people throw up. By the time I finished grinding the roots, I was on the verge of throwing up.
But I got the job done, and I even managed to take a picture…
|You can't see the fumes, but they are there, and they are wicked.|
If you go to the how-to link above, you will read this warning:
A ground up fresh horseradish is many times as potent as freshly chopped onions and can really hurt your eyes if you get too close. Keep at arms length away, and work in a well ventilated room.
Um, yeah. I think that's an understatement. If you endeavor to grind your own horseradish roots, don't make the same mistakes I made!
I will grind horseradish again. But the next time, I will do it outdoors. And if I use a cheap food processor, I will cut the tough roots (they were probably tougher than usual, having dried down in the fridge for four months) into much smaller chunks before feeding them into the mechanism.
I'm sure that many of you who read this have ground horseradish roots. What has your experience been? Do you have any helpful words of advice for me (and others who may read this)?
|The finished product. I ended up with four hot pints of ground horseradish.|
I like horseradish mixed with scrambled eggs. It's good on hamburgers and meatloaf too. Here's some interesting details about horseradish from the article in Heirloom Gardener magazine:
The heat in horseradish comes from a volatile compound, isothiocyanate, which, when oxidized by air and saliva, generates the hotness. Both mustard oil and horseradish contain isothiocyanate, which acts as a preservative and both have been shown to combat the food pathogens, E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and others when eaten on food. Some people claim eating a bit of horseradish clears out their sinuses. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends horseradish as part of a healthy diet.
Unlike me, the man in the following picture knows what he's doing when it comes to grinding horseradish. Click This Link to see how they make horseradish at Saw Mill Site Farm in western Massachusetts.
65 Men & 30 Gallons
of Horseradish Sauce!
Click Here to read a great story about a group of men in Ohio who grow horseradish and get together once a year for a horseradish-grinding party. It's old-fashioned community in action.