Canning horseradish is science for Shumway

Fran Brownell
Pratt Tribune
Pratt retiree Darrell Shumway is all smiles as he displays the six jars of horseradish, he recently put up from his 2020 garden harvest.

Some like it hot, especially in winter, and Darrell Shumway is one of those, taking the matter of “hot,” into his own hands, when it comes to horseradish.

Shumway, retired from a career that included service on the Pratt Community College Board, canned a half a dozen pints of the tangy condiment last week, as he has in past years, from his garden-plot harvest.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” said Shumway who shares a home with acreage on the Park Hills Country Club Golf Course on the southern outskirts of Pratt with wife Irene.

With three decades of horseradish canning behind him, Shumway has the art down to what could be called a science.

“I try to get enough roots to put up six jars every other year,” Shumway said.

Sometimes, the eye-watering effect of the horseradish pungent root takes Shumway outside for part of the prep work, which includes washing, peeling and dicing up the aromatic horseradish roots.

After peeling the brown skin off the horseradish roots and wiping his eyes dry, as needed, Shumway is ready to for his food processer to pulverize the diced roots, adding cold water to the consistency he desires.

“Horseradish releases an aromatic fragrance that can be overpowering,” Shumway said.

It takes about two minutes for the food processor to grind to the horseradish roots to desired the consistency.

“It’s going to get as hot as it can in about two minutes,” Shumway said. “I add about an ounce of white vinegar and that stops the chemicals from reacting, which stops it from getting hotter.

I try to get it as hot as I can because it loses some heat over time. It’s got a good flavor.”

Shumway said he has been gardening all of his adult life and traces his gardening roots to childhood when he helped his mom tend a large garden on the northern outskirts of Preston.

Sharing photos of his 2020 horseradish bounty with Facebook friends, Shumway added the comment, “Seemed like a good day to make horseradish. Yes, I can breathe again.”

Shumway is in good company when it comes to relishing horseradish relish.

The horseradish plant dates back three millennium, which translates to three thousand years of history for this bitter herb, prized over the centuries for its medicinal and gastronomic qualities, including being renowned as an aphrodisiac and as a treatment for rheumatism and for adding zest to beef, chicken and seafood.

Legend has it that the Delphic Oracle told Apollo, “The radish is worth its weight in lead, the beet its weight in silver, the horseradish its weight in gold,” according to website. traces the more recent appreciation of horseradish to having originated in Central Europe from where, during the Renaissance, horseradish consumption spread northward to Scandinavia and westward to England, becoming standard accompaniment for beef and oysters.

It’s reported on website that horseradish had become a common crop in the United States by 1806 and that by the 1840’s horseradish was growing wild near Boston, MA.

In the mid-1850s, commercial cultivation of horseradish began in America began when immigrants started horseradish farms in the Midwest and, by the late 1890s, reports, a thriving horseradish industry had developed in an area of fertile soil on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River.

From there, smaller centers of horseradish farming sprouted in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and, after World War II, homesteaders in the Tulelake region of Northern California began cultivating the root in the west and with other areas in the country following suit, horseradish roots were firmly entrenched in American soil.

Good news for horseradish lovers who don’t grow and process their own horseradish crop: It’s reported that currently approximately six million gallons of prepared horseradish are produced annually in the United States.