What can you do with a few beets, some slowly shriveling apples from last fall’s harvest, and an ever-expanding patch of horseradish? Inspired by a traditional beet-horseradish relish from Russia and a canned beet-apple pickle that I read about somewhere last year, I decided to make a relish of grated beets, apples, and horseradish.
Usually gardeners dig the transverse roots of horseradish for kitchen use, but my horseradish has apparently reacted to abuse—occasional mowing and a total lack of irrigation or fertilizer of any sort—by running its horizontal roots deep. Fortunately, the young vertical roots are good to eat as well, in winter or early spring, and when you have too many you don’t mind sacrificing some. Here you see a four-headed root ready to burst into spring finery. (I dug many more little roots, so Robert could share them with his pals at work. He looked at me oddly and left for work without them.)
For the quantities here, you’ll need one big or two small beets, and one big or two small apples. I used Fuji apples. Bake the beets whole, in their skins, at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour or until they are just tender.
This recipe could be adapted for canning, by adding more vinegar, heating the relish, and putting it through a boiling-water bath. But that would make the relish too liquid and cause the horseradish to lose its delicious pungency. I would prefer to make this relish in small quantities, store it in the refrigerator, and use it up within a few weeks.
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ pound tart, firm apples, with peels intact
¾ pound beets, baked, cooled, and peeled
1 small piece horseradish root
1 teaspoon pickling salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
1½ teaspoons yellow mustard seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
Put the vinegar into a bowl. Coarsely grate the apples around their cores, and add the gratings to the bowl. Coarsely grate the beets; mince any pieces that you can’t grate without risking cut fingers; and add the beet bits to the bowl. Peel the horseradish root; finely grate enough to make 1½ tablespoons; and add the grated horseradish to the bowl. Stir gently. Add the salt, and mince and add the garlic. Toast the mustard and coriander in a small, dry pan until the spices release their aroma and the mustard begins to pop. Grind the spices in a mortar until the coriander pieces are fine, and add the spices to the bowl. (Mustard is much harder to grind than coriander, but you want to leave it mostly whole for texture anyway.) Stir once more, and pack the relish into a pint jar.
I love this relish for its gentle sweetness (notice that I added no sugar), the bit of heat from the horseradish and mustard, the fragrance of the coriander, and the mild sourness that allows you to heap the relish on other foods without overpowering them. Here you see my lunch of beet-apple relish with pickled herring and sourdough rye bread. It’s a pleasant combination, but every taste of this relish makes me crave corned beef or pastrami. Somehow, my beet-apple relish seems to demand a pairing with spicy salted beef.
Which reminds me: I should corn some beef for St. Paddy’s Day. The relish may not last until then, but I can easily make more. I won’t even have to dig in the horseradish patch again, because all those roots Robert wouldn’t take to work will keep well in the refrigerator for several weeks.