Horseradish is a love it or hate it type of food. It is generally seen as a condiment and packaged as “prepared” probably most notable in cocktail sauce.
What Is Horseradish?
The horseradish we use is actually the root of the horseradish plant and comes from the mustard family. Another close relative is wasabi. The leaves of a horseradish plant are also edible, but not as widely used in the culinary realm.
The root is thick and white with a rough beige exterior. To me, it looks like a cross between a big piece of ginger and a parsnip. When used fresh, it is grated and usually suspended in vinegar or brine, but it can also be dried, ground and powdered.
It is a little stringy and chewy unless prepared correctly.
What Does Horseradish Taste Like?
I would describe it as a strong heat that brings tears to your eyes and burns your nose, but unlike spice from chiles, it only lasts for a short while and then you’ll be normal again.
It gives off a compound called isothiocyanate which gives off heat when ruptured, either by grating, cutting or chewing. Adding it immediately to vinegar helps to tame the heat for a milder and more palatable taste.
The reason you don’t see fresh horseradish often is because it is challenging to work with. It is very hard to grate and generally requires a food processor instead of just a micro plane. Fumes build fast (think of the worst onion x100) after it hits air, so it needs to be added to other food (or vinegar fast).
Without being suspended in vinegar, it begins to spoil fast.
Storage & Freezing
Prepared horseradish can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 months after opening. It can also be frozen. The raw root will start to go bad about 2 weeks after harvesting. Depending on what time you purchase it during this cycle, it might go bad within on day of bringing it home. There isn’t high turnover.
It is not recommended to freeze fresh horseradish root.
Recipes that Use Horseradish