MY DAD WOULD HAVE loved it.
On Saturday, my husband and I gathered with extended family in a garage just north of Lamberton in rural southwestern Minnesota for the annual making of horseradish, a tradition started by my horseradish loving father many years ago.
Back in the day, my dad and bachelor uncle, Mike, would occasionally make horseradish. Eventually my sister Lanae (and later her husband, Dale, too) began assisting Dad with the digging and washing and peeling and slicing and processing of this pungent root. And then, when the creamy white sauce was bottled, Dad would haul it down to the Vesta Community Hall for the annual Senior Citizens’ craft/bake/produce sale. Folks would wait in line to snap up Vern’s homemade horseradish.
Dad has been gone for nearly 10 years now, his annual root rite resurrected in recent years by Lanae and my middle brother, Brian. For the first time I joined them and other family in making horseradish, and, although I will eat horseradish, I am not a fanatical fan like my siblings and our father before us.
But it wasn’t the horseradish which drew Randy and me to drive more than two hours to Brian and Vicki’s rural acreage to stand at tables in a garage on a chilly Saturday to process horseradish that would soon overwhelm us with eye-stinging fumes.
It was family and tradition and memory-building and time together which brought us to this peaceful place, to this land where I grew up some 25 miles to the north and west. Any reason to return to my beloved prairie.
And so Randy and I were instructed in the art of horseradish making while my 80-year-old mother supervised from a comfy chair, occasionally rising to skirt the tables, to check the progress.
We listened to the tales of horseradish making past, when metal shavings from the old meat grinder flaked into the horseradish. We heard of Dad’s old drill shorting and shocking whoever was using the drill (which he had rigged to drive the meat grinder) to pulverize the roots.
The old meat grinder and drill have been stashed away now, replaced first by a modern electric grinder (which failed to work as planned) and then by a food processor before the pulverized roots were mixed with vinegar in a blender.
As words and horseradish peelings flew and laughter bounced around the garage, it was sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction, especially when the beer was cracked open upon the arrival of honeymooners Al and Alyssa. Al and his bride of one week, on their way home from Duluth to Tyler, pitched in. And I photographed them so some day their children will believe their parents made horseradish on their honeymoon.
These are the moments that matter most in life, the sweet times with family. And nothing touched my heart more than watching my aging mom, the supervisor, rise from her chair to meticulously count and record the yield.
AND FOR THOSE OF YOU unfamiliar with the entire process, here are additional photos to show you the steps needed to grow and make horseradish:
STEP 3: Dig up the roots; I missed photographing this given I arrived after the digging.
© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling