Horseradish is a perennial plant in the Brassicaceae family. Don’t ask me how to pronounce that. This family also contains mustard and wasabi and some other things. Horseradish is a root vegetable that’s used as a spice. And when I say spice, I mean it can be quite hot.

Intact horseradish root doesn’t have much of an aroma or bite to it. But when the root is grated or cut, enzymes from the plant cells begin breaking down sinigrin to produce allyl isothiocyanate. Vinegar helps stop this reaction as well as stabilizing the flavor.

The “hotness” we associate with horseradish comes from the isothiocyanate. When oxidized by air and saliva, this volatile compound generates the “heat” that cleans your sinuses and makes you cry like a baby.

Horseradish is loved by some and hated by many. I’m not sure the accuracy of that previous statement. I fall into the first category, as in I can’t get enough horseradish. But we all know I have an unhealthy desire for outrageously spicy foods.

My first experience with horseradish was at a now defunct buffet here in Anchorage some eighteen years ago known as the Royal Fork. Some of you Alaskans might remember it. Well this was the one on Old Seward and I believe it was a Sunday afternoon. They had a meat cutting station where you could have a dude with an electric knife cut you slices of ham, turkey and roast beef.

If my memory serves me correctly, they were serving prime rib that day for some reason, and I absolutely couldn’t pass that up.

Well, a little plastic cup of horseradish ended up on my table so I decided to give it a try. I dunked a piece of prime rib in the horseradish and took a liberal bite. It was different than anything I had tasted up until that point in my life to say the least.

Now, I’m not the most adventurous when it comes to trying new food, but after the initial shock to my system passed, I was hooked. I instantly new it was going to be a food I would be eating a lot more of in the future.

Anyhow, I put heinous amounts of Horsey Sauce on my roast beef sandwiches when I go to Arby’s. Heck, I even skip the ketchup in favor of dunking my curly fries directly in the Horsey Sauce as well. That may not count for some people, but it’s still horseradish, albeit in a dumbed-down version.

Vanessa and I have competitions to see who can eat the largest helping of prepared horseradish in one bite without dying. So far I think we’re pretty even. Horseradish goes well on beef and pork, and is one of the ingredients found in Bloody Marys.

Grated horse radish should either be used right away or preserved in vinegar to keep the best flavor. Once the grated horseradish gets exposed to air or heat, it will begin to loose its potency and begin to darken in color. Over time it will become bitter and unpleasant tasting.

You can find horseradish in powder form, but I haven’t had as much luck with that as I have from freshly grated horseradish root. Here’s a nice recipe Vanessa did if you feel like making (and you should) some fresh grated horseradish at home: Fresh Prepared Horseradish