Passover is just around the corner. Well, six weeks might not be just around the corner to some, but in the fermenting world that’s no time. For maror, horseradish, I recommend at least several weeks to a month ferment time, and starting now like I’ve done is all the better. In its early stages, it produces some sulfurous odors, which is another good reason to give it plenty of time.
(If you want to make this not for Passover but, like me, you just love the flavor any time, then welcome to the world of fermented horseradish!)
Before we get started, I wanted to also give a shout out to a certain product. You may see I am always recommending “fermentation weights,” but in this instance fermenting ground down horseradish is too much for weights to handle. I had the opportunity to try out the “Ultimate Picklejar System” aka the Pickle Pusher, and it successfully kept all those bits from coming to the top through its unique design. It’s a super product and I encourage you to check it out for fermentation projects like this. Click here for the site:
Notes on flavor & preparation: Not all horseradish is the same. Some can be much milder than others. I’m sure some people don’t want their nasal passages blown away by super strong horseradish, but I happen to be one of those folks who likes that.
If your maror isn’t as potent as you’d like, you can add ground mustard powder. I would start with a teaspoon or two and go from there. (You can also add other spices either to your ferment or afterwards as you could with any ferment, such as caraway, dill, minced or powdered ginger and garlic, etc.)
Purple horseradish: Once fermented or vinegar preserved, if you find that your horseradish is too potent for you, another option is to add some cooked or fermented blended beets. (You could use the beets from your beet kvass.) This not only gives prepared horseradish the iconic red appearance in many store brands, but will cut the bitterness with some sweetness. You can add some additional sugar too if desired.
Another addition to fermented horseradish, after it is fermented, can be vinegar. It will lower pH further but I wouldn’t use too much if your goal is to highlight the flavor of fermented horseradish. Adding vinegar should be done closer to when you plan to serve the maror rather than in the ferment. This is because vinegar’s acidity will disrupt a ferment in its early stages.
Lastly, after the ferment you may decide you want your horseradish blended to a pulp (or semi-pulp), like in store brands. Now that the horseradish has soaked in a liquid for a considerable period, blending it again will achieve this consistency. (Another possibility is to make a mash ferment by blending the horseradish to a paste and adding 2% salt by weight of the paste; add vinegar at the end of the ferment to achieve the desired consistency.)
Vinegared horseradish (instead of fermented): It is also worth mentioning that vinegared horseradish can maintain its heat better than fermented. This is partly because fresh horseradish tends to be hotter and vinegared horseradish can be made the same day you eat it, whereas a ferment is going to usually be at least a few weeks old. Vinegar also helps stabilize the hot compounds in horseradish (though again, the sooner you eat it, the hotter it will be). If you want to go the vinegar route, just as is mentioned in the ferment recipe, once you chop or grind down the horseradish, you must let it stand for three minutes before adding the vinegar.
A killer recipe is: 1 cup cubed horseradish, 2 TBSP vinegar (or more to taste), 1-2 tsp sugar optional or to taste , and 1/4 tsp salt. But remember, blend down the horseradish first (about half way) and let stand for three minutes before adding the other ingredients and blending the rest of the way.
With no further ado, here is the ferment recipe:
- 1 – 1.1 lbs. fresh, firm horseradish, peeled
- 1 tsp to 1/2 TBSP non-iodized salt (use 1/2 TBSP for saltier flavor)
- 1 cup clean or distilled water
- Optional: 1 tsp sugar (not required but horseradish is low in its own sugars and added sugar can help facilitate fermentation)
1.) Rinse and peel the horseradish
2.) Cut it into small pieces
3.) Process the horseradish in a blender until it is finely ground, pieces smaller than rice kernels (but not broken down into a pulp/paste)
4.) Pour the horseradish into a quart jar and pack tightly (like sauerkraut). Let it stand for three minutes before adding brine. This is a very important step in helping stabilize the hot compound in horseradish – isothiocyanate.
5.) Dissolve the salt (and optional sugar) in water (either stirred in a heated pot or simply by placing together in another sealed jar and shaking vigorously). 1 tsp = ~2% brine; 1/2 TBSP = ~3.5% brine.
6.) After letting the horseradish rest for three minutes, slowly pour the brine into the jar, allowing time for it to sink down so as not to overflow the jar.
7.) Once complete, apply the PicklePusher following its instructions (or, use a glass weight, and remove any small pieces that make their way to the brine surface)
8.) Apply the airlock lid and wait the desired length of time (suggested: at least 3-4 weeks).
This horseradish had mustard powder and vinegar added to it after the ferment, then was blended to a pulp (as discussed in the intro):
That’s it! Have a Happy Passover! Or, have a happy ferment!