Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Lowly Horseradish Root

It was one of those weeks.  Another birthday for me, and my thoughts always go back to my childhood.  I grew up in the most perfect place I could ever imagine.  My parents and grandparents were American born, but before that, my ancestors came from Germany and Russia.  Luckily, they all developed the settlement of the Amana Colonies, and from there forth, the traditions continued.

What I think about most, is the magnificent German food.  It was on the table every day of the week.  I did not know about casseroles or hot dishes.  That was fake cooking to these strong German women.  Go into the gardens and freeze and can and then cook from the larders.  We had magnificent butchers down the street and a small grocer that had everything we needed including a "beer room" in the back where my grandfather spent the last years of his life dispensing beer and stories.

We also had a wine cellar in the basement, as did so many of my neighbors.  They made their own rhubarb and grape wine.  This was so normal for all of us.  Do I miss it?  Absolutely!  Do I have great memories?  You betcha!!  And thus comes the post for today.

I have been watching horseradish roots in my local grocer for several weeks.  I was so tempted to buy, but remember my last episode with that strong root.  It was 1972.  We were living in Coldwater, Michigan, and my parents and mother-in-law came to help us out as our second child was born.  Mom and Dad brought a large horseradish root.  I am sure I requested it.  I recall being outside at the picnic table and they were grinding the root.  The smell was enough to search for a gas mask.  I also remember quickly going into the house and letting my mother take over.

Through the years afterward, whenever we visited my parents, I requested Gekochtemeerrittich.  To non-Germans, that would be cooked horseradish.  So, last week, seeing the horseradish at Fry's, I bought it, hoping for the best.

Luckily, my community produced several cookbooks through the years, preserving our inherited recipes.  And there it was!  Page 96 of  "Seasons of Plenty" and the recipe was submitted by my friend's mother, Linda Selzer.

The rest is history.  It was delicious!  I had invited a couple of friends that evening for dinner, and my dear friend, David, who grew up where I did, claimed he had not tasted it in 50 years, since his grandmother had cooked it for their family. We all enjoyed it and now, I want to share this recipe with you. I will say, if the horseradish root is very fresh, the result will be quite hot. As things go in the grocery world, I am sure this root had been refrigerated for some time, so it was rather mild. But, the flavor was still there.

In Austria, this is a typical dish served with Tafelspitz, which is a boiled beef.  I served it with a pot roast.  Serve with any roast beef.  I really hope you will try it.

Cooked Horseradish

1 cup raw, grated horseradish
8 tablespoons butter
1 cup soft grated breadcrumbs
6 tablespoons flour
4-5 cups beef broth

To grate horseradish:  Wash horseradish root and peel with a carrot peeler. Grate in a food processor with a small amount of water if it is too dry. Process a small amount at a time.

Melt butter in a large saucepan.  Add breadcrumbs and sauté lightly.  Stir in the flour and sauté a minute or so.  Add the processed horseradish and stir.  Slowly add beef stock.  Stir well and allow to boil 5 minutes.  Cook on medium to low heat until ready to serve.  Can be frozen and reheated.