Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Farm Bulletin: Inner Workings, Part Two: Horseradish

Contributor Anthony Boutard once expressed a desire to open a restaurant where the waiters would carry, not baseball bat-sized pepper grinders, but small microplane graters and a stalk of horseradish to shave judiciously over diners' plates. Here he shares his secrets for serving the root, as well as his planting method at Ayers Creek Farm. Please note that the farm will be open this weekend, December 1st and 2nd, from 1 to 4 pm, with horseradish as well as their other products (see Anthony's note below for details).

During the warm months, horseradish roots have an unpleasant earthy funk. With the return of frosty and wet weather, the horseradish roots develop their flavor. Over the last two weeks, staff harvested about 120 pounds of horseradish. We pulled out the largest roots for our restaurant customers. We are mindful that prep labor is expensive and the larger roots are more efficient to peel and grate. As a result we have a lot of excellent medium-sized roots. Following the lead of Filene’s Basement and Nordstrom Rack, we will have a crate of medium sized horseradish roots available at $1 each. There will be a mixture of roots at a great price. We encourage you to poke through the selection with a discerning eye and grab a handful of the best for the holiday season and beyond. The quality of these smaller roots is as good or better than the biggest. Wrap them up in a damp dish towel and store in a cool place such as the garage or under the eaves of the north side. They will store for weeks or even months. Pull a root out, peel and grate what you need.

Untrimmed horseradish.

One of the soups we prepared for staff at Sweet Creek [on processing day for Ayers Creek Farm preserves] was a simple potato and onion soup using grain brine as the base. We grated a big container of horseradish to stir into the soup. There wasn’t a drop left. At Thanksgiving, grated horseradish was available to stir into the mashed potatoes. A bit of horseradish is welcome in salads or over a plate of oysters on the shell. We recommend trying it fresh rather than putting it in vinegar or cream. Freshly grated horseradish is a very different and more agreeable ingredient than the sour preserved stuff in a jar. Read the label and you will notice that virtually all brands are fortified with mustard oil, an indignity that also afflicts cheap brands of wasabi.

Grated horseradish.

The smallest roots are put aside and used for replanting the patch. For some reason, people often assume the leafy crowns are best for planting, but this is not the case. The best crops are propagated using short root cuttings, about five to six inches long. The bottom is cut at an angle to orient it, as shown below. The cutting is poked into the ground at a 35° to 45° angle. That’s it. If you want to buy some roots for establishing your own patch, ask us and will happily sell you some cutting grade roots.

Bear in mind, once established, horseradish is notoriously tenacious and will hang around for a century or more. Not for the ambivalent. To maintain its quality, we add generous amounts of sea salt, gypsum and sulphate of potash.

Read Part One about producing Ayers Creek Farms justly-renowned preserves.

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From Anthony: We are planning open days for the coming weekend, the 1st and 2nd of December. Our hours will be from 1 pm to 4 pm. As a reminder, we are strictly cash or check; we do not have the ability to process electronic payments. For those who find the journey out to the farm difficult or prefer the ease of electronic payments, World Foods' Barbur location and Rubinette Produce carry robust selections of our beans and grains. Pastaworks, which has carried our preserves since our first run in 2005, has a complete selection of our preserves at its City Market and Providore locations.

We will have a full selection of preserves, beans, and grains, as well as chickpeas, mustard and other odds and ends. We will have family-sized beets, horseradish, melons, tomatillos, spuds, big white onions and other stuff. Our selection now includes: Loganberry, Boysenberry, raspberry, golden gage, green gage, Italian prune, Veepie grape, blackcap, red currant, black currant, jostaberry, damson, tart cherry, quince jelly, crabapple jelly (available only at the farm).

Ayers Creek Farm can be found at 15219 SW Spring Hill Rd., Gaston, Oregon, 97119.

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