Thursday 18 June 2009

Preserving Fresh Horseradish: freezer or olive oil but please, not vinegar

Fresh horseradish root
Can you think of any two more disparate words than 'horse' and 'radish'? These are not words that - outside the English language at least - have a natural affinity. After all, a horse is a useful, flicky-tailed, muscular beast of considerable majesty, who has endured all manner of abuse over the centuries that it has been bred, tamed and enslaved by humans, while the humble radish is a stinging little red fart bomb with has few redeeming qualities apart from its ability to grow really quickly, and its habit of sending a blast of hot peppery air through your sinus cavities.

 I love horseradish in all its forms, and a few weeks ago I dug up the stupendously enormous and gnarled roots of a horseradish plant that's been hogging my small vegetable patch for years.

This great big brooding tangle of root was far too woody and leathery to use, but alongside it were several slim, crunchy parsnip-like offshoot roots that were perfectly ready to be preserved.

Last year, I followed the advice of fellow food bloggers and preserved my horseradish roots by grating them and pickling them in vinegar. But the results weren't great: the mixture was far too vinegary and acidic, and lacked the fresh zinging taste I like so much about horseradish.

So this is what I did with this year's crop: first, I washed them to remove all caked dirt. Then I timmed off the brown bits, and scrubbed them clean, in a sinkful of cold water, using an abrasive pot scourer to scour away the skin.

Use a micro-plane to grate the fresh root
Half of the scrubbed roots I wrapped tightly in cling-film, and packed straight into an arctic freezer (I have treated them like whole, fresh ginger root, which freezes beautifully, grates like a dream, and loses virtually no flavour in the freezing process).

Postscript: The roots retained their good flavour for six months in the freezer.

The other half I grated finely, using a microplane grater. I packed the gratings into a sterilised jar with a pinch of salt, and then filled the jar to its brim with olive oil.  The jar steeped on a warm windowsill for three days, and then went into the fridge.

The result is a fragrant, zingy, nose-tingling oil that is just lovely in a salad dressing, or drizzled over rare roast beef, or dabbed alongside a piece of panfried tuna.

Please note that this oil should be kept in the fridge and used within 3-4 weeks. It should not be bottled and shelved, because the gratings are raw, and without any acidity in the form of vinegar, the mixture may ferment.  If the oil solidifies in the fridge, place it on a sunny windowsill,  or warm a few tablespoons over a gentle heat.

Horseradish on Foodista

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Alisa@Foodista said...

Wow,what a great idea!I wouldn't dare try it with vinegar, but olive oil and freezing it sounds perfect!I'd love to guide our readers to your site if you won't mind. Just add this foodista widget to this post and it's all set to go, Thanks!

Jane-Anne said...

Thanks for the comment. Sure, I'll add the widget.

Unknown said...

I don't much care for horseradish in vinegar and stumbled on your blog while searching for alternatives. Thank you for your adventurous culinary spirit. Will take my ample a crop and use your methods.

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you for visiting Marya. Hope this method works for you. Juno.

Maru said...

I am desperately looking for a piece of horseradish to plant in my vegetable garden. Where in South Africa can I find it? (I live in Johannesburg)

Jane-Anne said...

Hi Maru

Horseradish is not easy to find although some nurseries occasionally stock it. Your best bet is to buy a fresh horseradish root (or several) from a supermarket when it is in season and plant that. If it is reasonably fresh, it will root. Alternatively, contact the Margaret Roberts Herb Centre ( ) who might be able to help. Jane-Anne

Liz said...

I know this is an old post but I'd love to know how good these methods were. Did it retain its flavour after freezing and how long did the oil last?

Anonymous said...

Don't you have any concerns about the possibility of botulism when preserving in oil. Vinegar is recommended in preserving recipes to protect against this organism.

Jane-Anne said...

Hi Anonymous. My apologies for overlooking your comment. You make a good point. I did not make it clear in my blogpost that this version of preserved horseradish is not intended to be bottled and shelved, but should rather be kept in the fridge and be used over the course of a few week. I have thus amended the blog post to reflect this. Thank you!