For me, the most mournful part of cleaning for Passover is the process of throwing out all of my condiments.
After all, I spend almost all year collecting an assortment of mustards, srirachas, barbecue sauces, and relishes. Some of these condiments get used up and replaced, but no matter how much I used them over the course of the year there is always half a bottle or jar of something that I find myself needing to toss.
While this does serve as a refrigerated catharsis, it also stands to remind me of all the wonderful chametz-based condiments that I will be unable to use over the Passover holiday.
I would normally not have a problem going eight days without a good whole grain mustard but the fact that I have just faced the harsh reality of throwing one away makes me long to slather it on the copious amounts of brisket I will inevitably be eating at the Seder.
Luckily for me there is a condiment that is tasty, versatile and quintessentially Passover. It is so quintessentially Passover that it even has a prominent place right on the Seder plate. I am talking, of course, about horseradish.
While there are many Jews out there who use various alternative items for Maror like romaine lettuce or endive most people still use horseradish as their bitter herb of choice. But though many people still use horseradish for their Maror many choose to use watery reddish mush that tastes more like beets then horseradish and for me that will simply not do.
Heck, if I wanted to eat a sweet chrain I could just put mushed up beets on my food. In my mind the best horseradish is spicy and flavorful, not sweet. Now there are plenty of good options in terms of chrain, some of which even use beet juice to help cut down the natural heat of the horseradish.
Of those options I tend to like Gold’s because I find the heat in their product is consistent where many other brands tend to vary by batch. However, horseradish is one of those items that we all buy despite how easily we can make it ourselves and why not make homemade chrain?
After all, we spend countless hours cooking for the Seder. Eons are spent getting the brisket just right and making homemade gefilta fish so why would you want the condiment spread on your hard labor to be a mass-produced hot mess (no pun intended)?
Making your own chrain is quite literally the easiest thing you will make all Passover.
The first step is to understand the primary ingredient you are working with. Horseradish is a root in the brassicacea family which proves how deeply flavor is connected to aroma. Whole horseradish has little to no scent at all but when cut enzymes are released that breakdown a chemical in the root called sinigrin causing the root to create mustard oil. This is what’s responsible for the eye watering and nose running.
The problem is that if you allow the sinigrin to breakdown too much you are left with a brown mess that is bitter but not flavorful. So the trick to making good chrain is arresting the progression of enzymatic breakdown at the right moment to maximize flavor
To make homemade horseradish you will need one horseradish root (about a cup of horseradish), three fourths a cup of white vinegar, one lemon and one fourth a teaspoon of salt. First cut the horseradish up into manageable chunks and place it in your food processor and blend until smooth.
This is not the most crucial part of making your horseradish because the longer you let the horseradish sit the hotter it gets until you reach a point of diminishing return and are left with a brown bitter mess.
I usually like to let it sit six minutes for optimal hotness. Once you have let the horseradish rest for a few minutes, carefully remove the top of your food processor. Make sure your kitchen is well ventilated because if you are not cautious you will literally end up maceing yourself. Once you have taken the lid off your processor, add the vinegar and squeeze half of the lemon onto the horseradish. This will stop the singrin from breaking down and help the horseradish keep its flavor. Add the salt, cover and blend until smooth.
What you will be left with is a spicy and perfect horseradish that makes an excellent Maror and an even better accompaniment to meat, fish and matzah. Just remember to warn your Seder guests that this year the bitter herb may have more heat than usual.
Zechariah Mehler is a widely published food writer and expert in social marketing. Follow him on Twitter @thekoshercritic