Thursday, April 13, 2017

Horsing around

I have very clear memories of being at my grandparents' house on Good Friday and Saturday while they prepared for the family to come for Easter.  My grandma made cruschiki and I watched, she made placzek, a very buttery bread, and I watched, she dyed eggs in onion skins and I watched, she decorated the lamb cake and I watched.   But when my grandpa went outside to grate the horseradish I was told to stay inside. I'll never forget how he looked when he came back in.  He looked like someone from a horror movie, someone who had been squeezed from the toes and all of his insides were coming out of his face.  His face was very red and bloated,  his eyes were tearing down his cheeks, his nose was running and drool was coming down the sides of his mouth.  After seeing that, who would ever want to eat horseradish??   Do you ever wonder who, way back in the root gathering days, first thought a horseradish root was edible?  Or how they prepared it and what they thought of it?  I mean, horseradish is an acquired taste and can easily send you running for a bucket of water to toss down your throat.   I like strong flavors so I do like horseradish in small doses but I had to be an adult before I tried it because all I could see in my brain when the word horseradish was spoken was my grandpa's face.

Since I seem to be channeling my maternal Polish grandparents this year by preparing the cruschiki, placzek, onion dyed eggs and lamb cake, I decided to try to make horseradish for the kielbasa and ham.
 I watched a YouTube to learn any tricks. First you peel it.  In its natural from-the-produce-section state it looks like a gnarled parsnip.  You peel it like that, too.
 But it's very woody and the pulp is tough.
 So for some of it I had to use a knife to cut away the outer edge.  Next, this is where I differed from my grandpa's preparation.  He used a box grater, that's why he went outside and why he suffered so.  I have a little chopper/grinder thing and I thought it would be safer.  I could take it outside if necessary and grind it out there.
 I cut the root into small pieces, measured out a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of sugar, two tablespoons of vinegar and some water.  Not sure if my grandpa did this but I know the vinegar and salt is necessary.
 The chopper worked very nicely and I was feeling a little cocky so I took the cover off.  Woo BoyImmediately my eyes started to water and the kitchen took on the smell so I opened windows and put the cover back on.  I didn't go outside with this because it's raining today.  Wow.  Potent stuff!  It's much, much stronger than the store bought. Phew!
The YouTube person was very explicit in saying to put it in a glass jar.  Probably because it would melt plastic!  Of course I don't have any small canning lids on hand so had to use this jar with a plastic lid.  My inner brain was telling me to put a piece of foil between the horseradish and the lid just in case this stuff DOES melt plastic! 

All in all, using the chopper gave a slightly coarser grain to it but I don't think I could live through grating it.  I just keep seeing my grandpa's face.


  1. What a very interesting post and very informative. It is wonderful that you are keeping up the traditions. Happy Easter!

  2. All those memories, Hope it tastes good after all that effort.may be you 'll have to open the jar outside leave it for a while then bring it in . Ha Ha. We are doing our traditional Easter thing , Camping in our van, much more sophisticated than we were kids I might add. Sadly not with our kids. Had our Easter with them last week.
    Enjoy your Easter. Happy Easter to all.

  3. I told my son your grandfathers story......he grimaced and understood the pain of fresh we all do! That stuff really hits the nasal passages. I love traditions and remember the feast treats that the Greek girls had as they broke Lent.....we only had the chocolate Easter eggs as tradition.
    You must have thought horse radish was akin to acid, and it possibly will take the paint off the walls if smeared on. What great memories.