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Horseradish

Wednesday, 31 March 2010 | Tags: ,

There's nothing quite like the hot, spicy, sinus-clearing bite of horseradish. It's available as a raw vegetable, prepared sauce, or powdered. We check out which brand bites best with the help of taste testers from a local steakhouse.

The Basics

  • A perennial plant that grows up to 5 feet tall, horseradish is not actually a radish, but part of the mustard family, and is mainly cultivated for its large white root.

  • The root itself doesn’t have much aroma, but grating releases the volatile oils that give it its unique taste.

  • Horseradish packs a ton a flavour without any fat. And with only 6 calories and 1.4 grams of carbs in one tablespoon, it makes a guilt free flavor addition to any meal. (If you’re buying a prepared sauce, however, be sure to check the label for added ingredients, which may mean added calories.)

    • Use it as a flavour punch added to scrambled eggs, mayonnaise, or as a vegetable topper instead of butter and salt.

  • In prepared sauces, ground horseradish is mixed with vinegar to stabilize the heat and flavour. For milder horseradish, vinegar is added immediately.

  • Some prepared sauces also have added spices or other ingredients like salt, sugar, cream, or vegetable oil. Other distinguishing characteristics include texture, from fine to coarse ground.

  • Prepared sauces are usually available in small jars because, once opened, the shelf life is only about six months.

  • The word “horse” (as applied in “horseradish”) is believed to denote large size and coarseness. “Radish” comes from the Latin radix meaning root.

  • Horseradish is available in a variety of products. For a full-flavoured bite, freshness and quality are a must.

  • The colour of prepared horseradish varies from white to beige. As it ages (and loses its flavour), it turns brown.

  • Horseradish is also mixed into other prepared sauces such as cocktail sauce and mustard to add a rich and spicy zing.

  • Horseradish keeps best stored in a tightly-closed jar in the coldest part of the fridge. It keeps even longer in the freezer. If your jar is older than six months, it’s time to replace it.

  • Don’t use silver plates or cutlery to serve horseradish because it will tarnish the metal. Use stainless steel, glass, or ceramic.

  • For the ultimate in freshness, serve finely-grated horseradish shavings in a dish of lemon juice, or have a fresh root and grater on the table for your guests to grate themselves.

  • If cooking with horseradish, add it to your dish towards the end of the cooking process since horseradish loses its bite as it is heated.

  • If using fresh horseradish in a recipe, remember that fresh is roughly the equivalent to two tablespoons of prepared horseradish sauce, or 1/2 teaspoon of dried powdered horseradish. And one pound of fresh horseradish root yields about 1-3/4 cups peeled and grated horseradish.

  • If you like horseradish as hot as it can be, make your own. Look for a small horseradish root that is very hard and free of cuts and blemishes. Avoid sprouting, shriveled, or green-tinged roots as they may be bitter. Generally, the whiter the root, the fresher it is.

  • Store fresh horseradish root wrapped in slightly damp paper towels and place in a plastic bag. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Cut away any soft or moldy spots as they develop.

  • To make your own horseradish, peel the root with a veggie peeler and use a grater, or better yet, cut into cubes and pulverize in a food processor.

    • Be sure you are working in a ventilated area, however, because the fumes can be quite strong and may actually burn your nose and eyes.

    • Add vinegar and salt to taste. The time you add vinegar is important as it stops the horseradish’s enzymatic (heat-building) action. For mild horseradish, add the vinegar immediately. For hot horseradish, wait three minutes before adding the vinegar.

    • Store your homemade horseradish in a lidded jar in the refrigerator and it’ll last up to 6 weeks.

TEST CRITERIA

We took a variety of store-bought horseradish sauces to local Vancouver steakhouse Gotham and invited a variety of horseradish afficionados to help us with a taste test. We tested:

  • Tosca Prepared Extra Hot Horseradish: $2.89 (125ml/4 oz)
  • Beaver Brand Extra Hot Horseradish: $2.39 (125 ml/4 oz)
  • Crazyhorse Extra Hot Horseradish: $1.99 (125 ml/4 oz)
  • Holbros Extra Hot Horseradish: $1.85 (125 ml/4 oz)

Taste Test

Comments from our testers include:

  • Tosca: “a creamier texture than the others.” It earned 6% of the vote.
  • Beaver Brand: “holy $h*t that was hot, this one has some zing, oh!” This one earned 29% of the vote.
  • Crazyhorse: “has a nice kick, not as strong as Beaver Brand or Holbros.” This one earned 15% of the vote.
  • Holbros: “good, spicy”, it earned 48% of the vote.

OUR TOP PICK

Definitely a matter of personal taste, we recommend trying all different kinds of horseradish sauce. For our recipe needs on an episode of Anna & Kristina’s Grocery Bag, we decided to go with the Holbros brand, which got the most votes in our taste test.

 

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