Fresh horseradish is harder on nose than on the tongue

November 24, 1991|By New York Times News Service

Among the last of the 1991 crops to be brought in is horseradish, which offers one of the strongest flavors the garden produces.

Dig around in your refrigerator and you'll probably find a long-forgotten, half-used hexagonal bottle of prepared horseradish.

As pungent as it may seem on first opening, the bottled variety bears as much resemblance to fresh horseradish as powdered skim milk does to sweet cream.

When freshly grated, horseradish releases a bouquet sharp enough to clear the sinuses and burn the eyes. But on the tongue, fresh horseradish leaves no overpowering heat.

There is a tender sweetness under the fire that makes horseradish a perfect foil for strong-flavored meats like pork, lamb or duck.

Salmon flavored with dill stands up beautifully to a horseradish sauce, as does a simple baked potato or a hot roast beef sandwich with strong mustard.

Horseradish has been around a long time.

According to legend, the Oracle at Delphi told Apollo the radish was worth its weight in lead, the beet its weight in silver and the horseradish its weight in gold.

Pliny advised overindulgers to ingest horseradish "as sharp as possible." A food historian, Waverley Root, wrote that some ancients ate copious amounts of horseradish in winter for its "warming qualities."

Honest horseradish relish

Makes 1 cup.

1 cup horseradish, julienned

1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed

1 medium yellow onion

1 green Italian frying pepper, seeds removed

3 whole cloves garlic, peeled

3 tablespoons herbed vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until finely chopped.

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