- BombayUpWithaTwist Mar 12, 2011 07:32 PM
Recently I had a Horseradish Salad Dressing at a restaurant that I really liked and decided to try to duplicate it at home. I bought fresh horseradish from the grocery twice at 2 different grocery stores and they both had no heat to it. Is there a season for horseradish or have they just dumbed it down?
I have used fresh horseradish in the past when I served Prime Rib and that brought tears to my eyes because it was so hot and I loved it!!
I live in the Los Angeles area and bought one at Ralph's. This one was huge, fat with the roots attached and it looked like an elephant's foot...it actually looked like celery root! It looked very strange because I'm used to the ones that are long and skinny and kind of looks like a parsnip. Produce guy said that is how they have been coming lately. 2nd one I got at Gelson's. This one wasn't as huge, but still pretty big and I got a part that didn't have any of the skinny roots attached.
Sorry about the long post, but I hope someone can enlighten me :o)
I make my own fresh horseradish every passover. The trick is to keep it covered all the time. The compounds that give it heat are very volatile. If you grind or grate it and leave it exposed to air, these compounds quickly evaporate, leaving something that is very mild or even tasteless. On the other hand, I have never seen a round horseradish. Its quite possible you were sold something else.
That has happened to me as well. I used to live in Warwick, NY and the next town, Pine Island, called themselves the Polish capital. There was an annual horseradish thing and that's where I discovered fresh horseradish. I started making fresh horseradish to give as Christmas gifts and then one year it was really bad. Now I know to scrape it with a fingernail and smell it, then you can tell if the root is ok before you buy it. I live in Florida and I know horesradish is not grown here so it's a matter of where it's grown and when can you get it. Also, when you make fresh horseradish and mix with the vinegar and salt it is better if you let it sit for a week in the fridge.
It can really vary year by year depending on the moisture-- a wet winter produces bland horseradish, and a dry winter produces hot horseradish. (or, at least, that's what they said when I was a kid in the Northeast, and it seemed to be true of our own horseradish patch). When I lived in LA, I was *always* kind of disappointed with the heat on the big commercially available roots that one could find in Ralphs, and I assumed it was because they were too happy in CA compared to the scrappy early spring roots in the northeast. But they did vary year by year, so maybe this just a weak year?
This makes sense Adam...thanks for the input. If the theory about the wet winter is true and they grow it around here, we have been having an unusually wet winter this season. It sounds very similar to what they say about why some peppers hotness is different even if it is the same variety.
Actually, this also made me realize that I'm not sure I ever saw horseradish in a farmers market in LA-- so perhaps it's not really all that local to LA? Or maybe there's not enough demand for local or organic horseradish....
(And maybe it was always there and there were too many other good things to be distracted by-- in New England, the long months with just a few sorry veggies available make each individual offering more obvious :) )
I make my own a lot too, and while the heat levels can be quite variable, there is one thing I learned out here from another 'Hound that seems to be true and it's related to the preparation method.
I always made it by grinding the root in a food processor, mixing it with some vinegar as I go along until I get the right consistency. What I was told - and it has proved to be true in my limited testing since I heard it - is that the addition of vinegar stops the release of the hot compounds, so for maximum heat, grind it completely all by itself and then add the vinegar when you're done.
As I say - I'm not sure whether that is scientifically valid but it does SEEM to make a difference.
And for the record, the only kind we get around here (northeast) is the big brown gnarly stuff, like a parsnip that's turned into The Incredible Hulk.
"Is there a season for horseradish or have they just dumbed it down?"
I'm not sure there's a season for it. But it's quite possible they've dumbed it down. For instance, I find it just about impossible to find a jalapeno with any heat in it any more.
When I've made fresh horseradish in the past I couldn't even sniff the blender I ground it in without being thrown across the kitchen by the fumes. When I brought it to a Passover dinner it was too spicy for the guests to eat. (People loved it after it had stood in the fridge for a week, though.)
So maybe they dumbed it down for good reason. But I like the full-on kick-a$$ horseradish flavor myself.
Finally! I found a horseradish that smells and tastes like horseradish and has heat!! I'm grating it now and had to walk away a bit because my eyes are starting to water...lol I guess 3rd time is the charm. I found it at a Vons and the size and look of it was what I would expect.
I haven't figured why the others were so dead, but now I know NOT to buy ones that are gigantic.
Thanks for all your input :o)