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Adding distilled vinegar to the freshly grated root stops the chemical process and allows you to control the "heat" of the final product. For milder horseradish, add vinegar to the root as you puree them. For a stronger flavor, puree the root first and wait a few minutes before adding vinegar.
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I was told that for really "hot" horseradish, you should harvest in either spring or fall. I can't remember which one. Maybe it really doesn't matter?
Hardiness Zone: 5b
By Jane from Spartansburg, PA
Why don't you do both; if it's not hot enough the first time [that would be upcoming spring, right?] offer it to friends and family who like milder horseradish.
Being fresh, I am going to guess it will be plenty hot, regardless.
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Hardiness Zone: 7a
Mary from Langhorne, PA
Horseradish is ready to harvest when roots reach a length of 12 to 18 inches long. Depending on a person's gardening zone, roots are harvested in either the early spring or late fall while the plant is still actively growing. Many gardeners prefer to harvest only as much as they need at any one time because the intensity of the root's flavor tends to fade with storage. After digging out the roots, cut off the crown and remove any of the smaller side roots.
Before you process the roots, mix 1 cup of water with 1 cup of vinegar and set it aside. To process the roots, scrub them thoroughly and use a potato peeler or small knife to pare off the outer skin. Cut out any hollow or dark spots and slice the root into small chunks.
Use a food processor or hand grinder to grind down the chunks into a smaller size. This is strong stuff. If cutting onions makes you tear up slightly, horseradish roots will make you weep! The more coarsely you grind the roots the milder the end product will be. And here's where the vinegar comes in. As you grind down the roots you'll want to add some of the vinegar/water mixture to the ground horseradish.
The enzymatic action of the vinegar stabilizes the horseradish and determines the final degree of heat. If you like less heat, add some vinegar right away. If you like a lot of heat, wait three minutes before adding it. You can vary the ratio of vinegar to water or substitute lemon juice for vinegar to vary the taste. Add mayo to create creamy horseradish. Pack in small jars and store in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 weeks. Roots can also be frozen, but will lose a bit of their flavor this way.
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Check the archives at Countryside magazine and Backwoods Home magazine. You should be able to Google it.
If you want really hot horseradish you have to grate it fresh each time, as it looses its heat when you can or store it. Good luck. (08/28/2006)
We have made horseradish for years. You have to peel it first, I use a stainless steel pad or scrape with knife. Do it under running water. Next cut it in small pieces and grind it in a meat grinder or something like it. Next put it in a blender and chop it as fine as you want. If you have a good grinder, you may not need a blender.
For every cup of horseradish add 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup sugar if you like it sweet, add less or more sugar. Be sure to do your grinding outdoors or with good ventilation. You will know why if you don't. We freeze ours and it stays pretty strong. We were told to harvest it in months with R's in them, I don't know why. We will be making some this fall. Hope this helps you. (08/28/2006)
My horseradish plant has been in place for 30 years. I sold the house, but I intend to get some to plant here. Heed the hint about ventilation. I have harvested year round, because I like it fresh. I think the months with R probably came from oysters with R months. There isn't any agriculture reason that I'm aware of.
Haven't put sugar in mine, but sounds like a good idea. I use vinegar to your preferred "wetness".
Have fun. (08/28/2006)
My mom always used a snorkel and mask when grinding hers through the meat grinder. She didn't add anything to it as my father liked it full strength. (08/28/2006)
Be sure to work in a well-ventilated area, or better yet, outside. The last time I ignored that vital information, I spent two days in bed with asthma and my eyes swelled shut. It's worth it to take precautions. We love it. (08/23/2007)