Horseradish is a delicious little ingredient that goes in many recipes, sauces, and marinades. Just about anything that might need a bit of a kick of spiciness and heat benefits from the addition of horseradish.
It also happens to be one of those food items where a little goes a long way, meaning that there is a chance your horseradish could go bad before you finish the jar.
This article is concerned with two things, explaining if horseradish can go bad and what can be done to stop or delay the process of it becoming ruined.
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When analyzing the shelf life of any food, it is important to understand what that food is made of. For example, if you are dealing with something dairy-related, it is safe to say that you have a foodstuff that is incredibly sensitive and can easily spoil.
Horseradish is a perennial root vegetable that belongs to the same family as broccoli, mustard, wasabi, and regular radishes. While some people might think that this particular crop got its name because it somewhat resembles a horse’s tail, anyone who has actually seen a horseradish plant can instantly debunk such claims.
In truth, the crop’s name is derived from an outdated meaning of “horse” that alludes to something with a great deal of strength and the obvious “radish,” i.e. an exceptionally strong-tasting radish. That iconic tangy spiciness you think of when you think about horseradish is derived from the mustard oil that becomes released when the root is grated or chopped.
Can Horseradish Go Bad?
This question must be broken up into two sections. First, we will discuss “commercial horseradish,” also known as horseradish sauce or chrain. Then we will discuss the root itself, for those home cooks with either a green thumb or connections to someone with a garden.
Even though horseradish sauce contains a great deal of preservative vinegar, it is not immune to the rigors of time. Even a pristine container of the stuff that never gets opened loses all of its potency within a year. Note that while horseradish sauce that manages to stay around for that amount of time will not have the same bite as horseradish sauce in its prime, you can still safely use and consume it if you must.
When dealing with the sauce that has been opened, you have four months, provided you keep the container safe within your refrigerator; before it goes off. After four months, any flavor you might have enjoyed before will have turned from “blah” to “blech” as it transitions from spice to nothing and then into bitterness.
A fresh root of this crop is a completely different matter from commercial horseradish products. If you keep it intact, your horseradish root will be good for several months. Once a knife or a grater comes into the picture, your root will start to lose its flavor and should be put to work within a week at the most. Horseradish roots also begin to darken in color after they are grated or cut.
On Storing Horseradish Root
The season for horseradish is a brief period, meaning anyone looking to have access to the fresh stuff year-round had better look into preservation techniques.
- The simplest method of storing an entire horseradish is to clean and dry the root, clad it in two sheets of aluminum foil, and then surround it with plastic wrap. If you keep it bound in the foil and plastic and stored within a refrigerator, your horseradish root will keep for two months.
- A slightly lower-tech method is to place your roots in a dark box, smother it with sand and keep the box in your cellar. The goal is to minimize exposure to heat, light, and moisture.
- You can also try your own hand at the commercial approach. Put the horseradish in a jar, fill the jar with vinegar, seal the lid on as tight as you possibly can and then move it to your refrigerator. This approach not only lasts for three months but also turns the vinegar into something truly special if you happen to like making your own marinades or salad dressing.
- You may also want to consider freezing, but this does not always pan out. When freezing horseradish roots, you want to use bags capable of vacuum sealing. A vacuum will do much to thwart the negative effects of air exposure on the root’s flavor. You can keep horseradish frozen for several months. When you are in the mood to use the stuff, just thaw out your root and use it just like any fresh piece of horseradish.
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On Storing Horseradish Sauce
Until you are ready to use the stuff, you can keep your sealed vessel of horseradish in either a cool, dark area or even your refrigerator. However, the moment you open it up is when you must keep it in your refrigerator with the seal on as tight as you can get it. By keeping the lid firmly sealed, you minimize the amount of degradation that will happen to the flavors kept within.
One way to prolong the use of your commercial horseradish is to store it in your freezer. Use a teaspoon to scoop dollops of your horseradish and plop them onto a baking sheet, making sure to leave around 1″ of space between each dollop. Once your sheet is fully loaded, move it to the freezer and leave it in there until the blobs of horseradish have completely solidified. Move the solid units of horseradish into a freezer-safe bag for use down the line, Your frozen servings of horseradish sauce should keep for three or four months.
How To Tell When Your Horseradish Has Gone Bad
The good news with commercial horseradish sauce is that all of that vinegar means it is probably never going to spoil. However, give it enough time and that spicy kick that excites your nose and your eyes will mellow out into nothingness, eventually becoming nothing but a bitter mess. Even though it will probably continue being safe to consume, no one is going to be wowed by anything you add your outdated horseradish sauce to.
The best piece of advice you can use when gauging the condition of your horseradish is to judge it with your nose and with your tongue. Squirt a bit of the horseradish in question onto your finger, give it a sniff and then give it a taste. You will know that your horseradish is still good if it still gives you that iconic kick that people use horseradish for.
It is not out of the realm of possibility for horseradish to succumb to mold. If you notice such contamination, you should immediately abandon the horseradish and chuck it into your trash bin.