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Horseradish question

I was wondering if anyone has any knowledge about the following. I was at a seder where my hosts had bought the horseradish to be used as maror at Brach's in the Five Towns. We could not believe how strong it was, as well as how moist. I had used a food processor on the horseradish root I bought. I used the grating blade on half, and the pureeing blade on the other half. I did this just a hour or so before the first night seder, and by the time we got to maror (at about 11 PM), there was almost no bite left to it whatsoever, and it was never moist at all. Then, a full 24 hours later, at the second night seder, we had the purchased horseradish, which was both strong and moist. Now, it is my understanding that nothing can be added to the horseradish used as maror. If that is the case, what are they doing to the stuff they are selling, that makes it so strong? (By the way, when I say it was bought at Brach's, I mean it was in a plastic container from the store itself, so I assume it was sold at some kind of counter in the store, and not that it was a commercial product.)

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  1. The pungency dissipates over time unless some acid (like vinegar) is added, which is why the stuff in jars still has bite after weeks or months.I can't imagine that it was straight horseradish.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ferret

      yes, it is the acid that preserves the strength. We use fresh slices for seder and use KLP vinegar for the rest of Pesach.
      The moisture varies with the freshness of the root too.

    2. My father always grates his horse radish and leaves them in about 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces about a week before - the larger pieces allows for the outside to oxidize but the inner root stays sharp - so as you chew the horseradish the more bitter it become as you chew -

      1. I also make horseradish from scratch. Yes, you must use some type of vinegar when grinding. I use a blender to grind. The "vinegar" I use is a homemade beet vinegar that takes 4 weeks to make. Yes, it is an old family recipe and kosher l' pesach. When I was asked to make white horseradish, I used kosher l' pesach apple cider vinegar. At my seders, people are warned about the strength of my horseradish and even now, almost 3 weeks after I made it, it is still strong. It is also important to keep the jar covered when not being used, leaving it open on the table will cause it to lose strength. Needless to say, store bought horseradish is tasteless to me!

        3 Replies
        1. re: runtexas

          For many years, we used a manual meat grinder for our horseradish. Some years were more pungent than others, but it was always quite hot. One year, we used a food processor and didn't like the smooth texture, and the heat was gone. This year, we bought an electric meat grinder. Hodu la'hashem. Saved us a ton of hard work, the texture was perfect and the heat insane!
          The horseradish didn't look any different whole as it did any other year, so I don't know why it was so crazy hot...but we were all happy with it!

          1. re: DebbyT

            The person who taught me how to make horseradish told me that a blender was much better than a food processor because the food processor ground it too fine and it lost strength.

            1. re: runtexas

              Are you talking about horseradish as the condiment/complement to gefilte fish or using it as marror for the seder? If the latter, you are not allowed to add anything to it, which was the reason for my original question.

        2. As per my wonderful Bahby who did it just like the old country: grate it with a hand grater only, do so quickly and store in a tightly sealed container only to be opened a crack when you put some on your plate, closed in between the time you take and the next person takes. My husband still messes up and hands me the open container, at which time, I close it and reopen it so he'll get the point. Our horseradish is painfully sharp and absolutely wonderful. Also, I like to buy whole horseradish at the Jewish stores right before the holiday because I tend to feel that they prioritize getting fresher ones, but I may be wrong about that.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cappucino

            Except for the hand grating, this is what we do. Maybe next year I'll try the hand grating thing, but I'd have to buy a grater. Also, we use Romaine for marror as well, so it's just to add to that. If it's not sharp, then it's not; I feel I've been doing my due diligence, and the rest is out of my hands.

            1. re: queenscook

              Nah. It's not so much for the Mitzvah (we have Romaine too). It is a delicious experience with the Charoses and Matza. Sharp can't be beat.

          2. I use a food processor, regular blade and process it with some wine vinegar, beets and a little sugar and salt. It is stronger than any chewed slices. What I do is use romaine for maror (so I have something solid to dip into charoset, even though it is not bitter at all) and add the grated on top for bitterness. That way I fulfill the mitzvah, but still have strong taste. It clears the sinuses. But even then, it only lasts as strong for about 2-3 days at most.

            2 Replies
            1. re: mrogovin

              I know this is not the place to debate halacha, but I wonder if this is allowed when you eat the maror for the mitzvah. You can say that as long as you have enough Romaine, that you can add strong horseradish to it, but what if someone else says they can add something else which isn't sharp to a full shiur of Romaine? I would want to ask my Rav before I did this. Maybe it's fine, but I always thought it had to be totally unadulterated.

              1. re: queenscook

                Technically it shouldn't be allowed, but then if you want to get technical *no* horseradish should be allowed, because it isn't one of the five kinds of maror listed in the gemara. (No, "tamcha" is not horseradish, despite what you will see in some classical sources.) Jews started to use horseradish for maror in northern Europe only because lettuce is not available until the summer, and nor are any of the other listed kinds. Now that lettuce is available, one must eat a kezayit of it.

                So if for tradition's sake we have horseradish with our kezayit of lettuce, it's a short step to allowing vinegar with that horseradish...

            2. Revisiting this issue.

              Has anyone had any success keeping the horseradish sharp without any additional vinegar, etc.? When I was growing up my mother grated it before the seder, did not particularly make it airtight, or anything else besides keeping it covered with plastic wrap, and it was always wonderfully sharp. Mine used to be too, but has gotten weaker and weaker over the years.

              I'm open to using my mini food processor, or any other suggestions.

              1 Reply
              1. re: helou

                I'm happy to report that I too had a happily bitter (nice oxymoron) experience this year, and I'm now convinced that it's simply a matter of a good year or crop. I had two different horseradish roots, purchased from two different places, and both were fine.

                I did nothing unusual or different from what I've always done and what I watched my mother do for many years, all those years ago. I grated it close to the seder, but certainly not just minutes before we got to "maror." I pressed a piece of plastic wrap over the surface and then put it in a nicely sealed plastic container.

                It was great.

              2. Last year was not a particular good year for horseradish roots. some areas had a very week root so there was nothing you could do to make it stronger unless you added something to it that was very hot.
                This year it seems that it is much stronger.

                5 Replies
                1. re: chicago maven

                  This year seems to be a very good year so far for horseradish root, at least here in Houston. I made 3 pounds of horseradish yesterday and halfway through I could barely keep my eyes clear. Had to go to the back of the house to blow my nose and wash my eyes with water! I think this year it is good and strong!!!!

                  1. re: runtexas

                    It's very hit or miss. Really depends on the year's crop. But you should always hand grate, cover it with plastic and prepare it as close to Yom Tov as possible.

                    1. re: CWY

                      Yes. This makes a huge difference. I watched our host peel and slice horseradish minutes before passing it around and it was hardly the sinus-clearing experience I've had in previous years.

                    2. re: runtexas

                      We had that exact same experience here in Chicago.

                  2. i was watching them make fresh horseradish @ The Pickle Guys on the LES in manhattan on sunday. the guy making it wore a gas mask because of the vapors from the radish. it seemed as fresh as could be. seemed 100 per cent pure with no additives.

                    1. I just bought a jar of horseradish and when I got home the jar was not sealed...should eat it.?

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: vickibarr

                        They brand I buy is never sealed either. Seems odd in this day and age, but it is true of some of the brands.

                        1. re: vickibarr

                          No. I would never eat unsealed packaged food like that. Take it back to the store and ask for a refund/exchange.

                          If a brand has quality control issues that it's never sealed then I doubly wouldn't trust it because who knows what other quality control issues they have.

                          1. re: vickibarr

                            What do you mean by not sealed? It has pop button on the top that was pop-able before you opened it? It didn't have a piece of shrink wrap around the neck?

                            1. re: CloggieGirl

                              The brand Tuv Taam comes in a glass jar with a plastic screw-on cap. It is not vacuum sealed, so there's no "pop," there's no paper seal on the inside top, and there's no shrink wrap around the outer top either. I guess there's a bit of risk, but really, until the Tylenol tampering incidents of the early '80s, we all ate food packaged that way. Am I tremendously concerned? Not really. If so, I'd change brands. I like Tuv Taam, and haven't ever heard of anyone harmed or poisoned in such a way.

                              1. re: queenscook

                                Same here. The Tylenol scare changed everything. I find that many of the "heimische" brands have less than optimal seals relative to other manufacturers, but except for certain specific items, like the Tuv Taam horseradish, I dislike many of their products for other reasons so it's not an issue.
                                Having said that, if I'm really stuck for something and it only comes from, say, China or Thailand, I wouldn't buy it if it didn't conform to American packaging standards. Even then, I'd hesitate.