If you've only ever had jarred horseradish you need to give yourself a treat and try the real stuff. Bright and pungent, without the bitter aftertaste sometimes found in jarred versions, fresh horseradish perks up any meal and is especially good with the heavier roasts and stews of cold weather cooking. It's bite can also add a lovely kick to gentle spring cooking and bring out the best in summer grilling.
What Is Horseradish?
Horseradish is a member of the mustard family, along with kale and turnips, so its bite makes a lot of sense. Its greens are edible and sometimes available at farmers markets. Its the horseradish root, however, that is cultivated and sold.
Horseradish is at its best in fall and winter. Like so many other root vegetables, however, it stores well and is often available in decent shape well into spring.
How to Buy Horseradish
Choose firm roots with cut ends that look fresh. The large, white, tapered root of horseradish is covered with a somewhat hairy brown peel. Avoid any wilted, desiccated, or soft specimens.
How to Buy & Store Horseradish
Once home, store horseradish loosely wrapped in plastic in the crisper of the fridge. Fresh horseradish will keep several weeks. Cut pieces, however, should be used immediately, as horseradish turns bitter once cut or grated (the larger piece can be re-wrapped and stored, just cut off and discard the previously cut end before using).
For longer-term storage cut horseradish into one-use pieces and store sealed in plastic in the freezer. Another way to keep fresh horseradish around is to peel it, cut it into chunks, put the chunks into a sealable jar, and cover the horseradish with vinegar. The flavor will soften as it's stored, but it will keep some of its kick and you'll have a wonderfully aromatic horseradish vinegar to use as well.
How to Use Horseradish
The easiest way to use horseradish is to simply cut off the brown peel and shred or grate some fresh horseradish to serve with roasted meats or as a flavoring for hearty soups or stews. Shred as close to serving time as possible, since horseradish turns bitter and discolors within a few hours.
Freshly shredded horseradish also makes a great addition to mashed potatoes, Bloody Marys, or as a condiment with roasted root vegetables of all sorts.
You can also make Horseradish Cream and add it as a delightful swirl into thick soups or serve in place of traditional creamed horseradish.
And don't forget the power of pungency in Horseradish-Infused Vodka.