It's really fun to work with Central Oregon farms. Sometimes you get exactly what you expect: radishes in the spring, tomatoes in the summer, morels and chanterelle mushrooms in the fall, butternut squash in the winter.
But sometimes you get something really unexpected. Did you know that we can grow horseradish in Central Oregon?
So when my produce supplier Liz from Agricultural Connections contacted me and said that Groundwork Organics in Junction City had ten pounds of horseradish, I was thrilled to order all of it.
And then it arrived...and what in the world do you do with ten pounds of horseradish? With two locations, you would be surprised how quickly we can move through ten pounds of product, but horseradish...hmm...that was a tough one.
I thought about an article I had read recently that talked about preserving ginger in alcohol to make ginger liqueur, and I thought that was really interesting. Instead of making it into liqueur, I thought "could I turn this into bitters?"
You might be familiar with bitters as Angostura, Peychauds, or any of the Fee Brothers lines that are popularly used in making cocktails. An uncommon, but delicious, use of bitters is in cooking. It makes sense: a good recipe has balance between sweet, salty, acidic, umami, and bitter. So why not use cocktail bitters in cooking to balance out the bitter aspect of your recipe?
It took me close to two hours to grate all ten pounds of horseradish. The staff kept coming through the prep kitchen asking me what in the world I was doing! I probably should have used the food processor to grate it, but it was important to me that I preserve the integrity of this locally grown product by processing it by hand. No matter how long it took!
Once all grated, I placed it in a jar with the remaining bitters ingredients: vodka to extract the horseradish flavor; gentian root, wild cherry bark, and dandelion root as bittering agents; water; and simple syrup to round out the flavor. I shook it every day until the aroma of the jar changed from a potent alcohol flavor to seriously spicy horseradish.
For scale, we took a picture of our horseradish bitters jar next to a standard pint-sized mason jar. Where do you find a two gallon mason jar you might ask? Yeah, it took some driving around Bend to find that!
Just like that, we have horseradish bitters! I can't wait to see what fun produce Central Oregon farms will be producing in 2016. We'll be ready to experiment with ingredients no matter what they throw at us!