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May 6, 2008 05:35 PM

Fresh Horseradish -- THAT bitter?!?

One of my farmers market pickups this past weekend was a chunk of fresh horseradish. I'd never cooked with it before, and was anxious to give it a try. I used an exceedingly simple Jean-Georges recipe that I thought would be a great basic intro, and got some terrible results. It was HORRIBLY bitter. I realize fresh horseradish is bitter by nature, and I'm aok with other bitter foods, but this was really quite extreme, certainly not pleasant, and bordering on inedible. Given that all of the Jean-Georges recipes I've tried over the years have been great, I have a hard time believing this was the intended result. So my question is, was this a problem with preparation, or did I get a lousy piece of horseradish (if there even is such a thing)?

As instructed by the recipe, I peeled the horseradish and sliced it thinly. I put it in a saucepan with water to cover, brought the water to a boil, and then simmered it for about an hour until the horseradish was tender. I drained and pureed it with a little bit of the simmering liquid and some creme fraiche, then used that mix to coat salmon fillets before roasting them.

Any ideas? My only thought was that at one point the simmering liquid had cooked about halfway down and I had to replenish it and bring it back to heat... but it seems unlikely that was the issue.

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  1. I have never cooked horseradish - I didn't even know anyone did. The only thing I've done with it is to grate it finely and mix with vinegar, salt and sugar to make a wonderfully sinus-clearing condiment. But cook it? I can't imagine. What an odd recipe.

    Oh, and yes, it really is that bitter. If it's any good, that is.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Nyleve

      I grate it very fine with cider vinegar. It is supposed to be sinus-clearing strong and hot , so you just need a little bit with beef.

    2. After all it is a common bitter herb for passover -

      4 Replies
      1. re: weinstein5

        I thougt it's purpose was to bring tears to the eyes. :)

        1. re: scubadoo97

          And me, I thought it was to take the top of your head off. mmmmm!

        2. re: weinstein5

          Some friends invited us to their seder a couple of times. I always wondered why they referred to horseradish as the bitter herb in the scripture, because I had never found it to be bitter. I guess the original poster has shown me the light.

          1. re: weinstein5

            I grow my own. Last fall I processed some and it was intense. I just got more out of the garden and processed and it is sort of bitter and not as intense. Wonder if it had to do with season, it is spring and been dormant since fall.??

          2. grate it fine, mix it with beet juice and have it with gefilte fish!!

            1. oh you can also put it in mashed potatoes.

              I have also seen horseradish and panko crusted fish in restaurants.

              1. While I appreciate the suggestions for recipes, what I'm really trying to determine is if anybody can identify some mistake I might have made in preparing it, or if there's enough variation in horseradish that it's possible to get an unusually bitter root. I assure you, I'm quite comfortable with bitter foods, but this was seriously unpalatable.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Dmnkly

                  I must admit I am completely ignorant on this subject. I do think that there's a good bit of vinegar in "prepared" horseradish, and that would greatly offset the bitterness of the root.

                  1. re: Dmnkly

                    I can assure you that the horseradish root itself can vary so dramatically from one root to another that you'd hardly even know it's the same thing. Sometimes it's killer, other times it's just nothing. I always have fresh horseradish for Passover seder - and I always hope it's murder. This year it was, but other years not so much. It could have to do with the root itself, or the freshness of it - could very well be the way it was stored before you got it. Like another poster said, the flavour is very volatile.

                    1. re: Nyleve

                      What determines the intensity of the prepared horseradish is more how you handle it during the preparation, although I'm sure the freshness of the starting root will contribute. There is a fine line between releasing maximum amount of mustard oil, and losing it due to exposure to air (it deteriorates after ~30 min air exposure). When you process the root, the oils are released and hit air, and at the same time an enzyme is released that immediately starts intensify the "hotness" chemical in the horseradish. The addition of vinegar actually inactivates that enzyme and helps to maintain the hotness. To get the best protection from losing hotness, you should include ice during the processing. The decreased temperature will also inhibit the enzyme activity and give you a better control of hotness until you add the vinegar. For a more detailed description, see these postings:

                      1. re: Science Chick

                        I pulled it 1 day, I washed it 1 day, today I started chopping and not thinking but still feeling, noticed it was not burning eyes. Continued no different than last fall though I think I waited little longer to process last fall. Makes no since other than the over winter effected the root that was still in the ground. I did all the same as last fall other than processing it sooner. The heat was not there when I peeled or processed it and I noticed I did not choke on the intenseness when I had to stir the blender. Same stuff over wintered, just starting to have new baby leaves. It is now bitter herb. will look at links now but post first.