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Posted on Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 6:05 a.m.

Eating from the garden at Christmas - horseradish sauce and raspberry vinaigrette

By Jim and Janice Leach


Janice Leach | Contributor

One neat thing about holidays being fixed days on the calendar is that they provide markers for keeping track of other events. For example, it always snows in Michigan after our son’s birthday, which is April 4 (if "always" is the last 25 years that we’ve been paying attention).

The first time we were able to eat something fresh from our garden in December was a magical moment for me as a gardener and a cook. Sure, gardening truly is a warm weather sport, but we had fresh horseradish sauce with our roast beef!

The challenge then becomes how many garden-grown foodstuffs can we have on our Christmas table? The exact number remains to be seen, but here are a few dishes and condiments we have lined up for this year.


People are not ambivalent about horseradish; they generally either love it or not. We have enough horseradish lovers at our house to justify good-sized servings of at least two kinds of horseradish sauce: the vinegar-based sauce and the creamy horseradish sauce.

Preparing horseradish from the yard is simple but requires effort. Carefully dig up a horseradish root. They are deep; I was told by a reliable source that the roots go as deep as the foliage is high. I like to use a large garden fork for digging in the horseradish bed.

Horseradish does not appear tasty when plucked from the ground. Multiple washings are necessary to clean the root. I do a few outside and then bring it to the kitchen sink for a bit more scrubbing.

If you purchase a horseradish root at the market — and sometimes you can — join in here.

Trim up the ends and then peel off the dark skin with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Right about now, the pungent odor of horseradish should start clearing your sinuses.

We shred our horseradish root using a microplane shredder. Again, the scent will waft through the air, causing housemates to inquire. Nab them to help with the process if you can.

We mix the shredded horseradish root with enough vinegar to moisten and then store in clean mason jars in the refrigerator.

For a creamy sauce, mix 1/2 cup of sour cream and 1/2 cup of plain yogurt. To that, add a tablespoon of vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar. Then add prepared horseradish to taste.

Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing

This is my latest discovery. I'm astonished that raspberries, which are completely wonderful just plain, could be transformed into such a delicious, elegant and beautiful dressing. And it’s easy too.

Using fresh raspberries in season, of any color, would be extraordinary; we’ve found, however, that home-frozen black raspberries will also result in a fantastic vinaigrette.

This version is adapted from a recipe in Simply in Season by Lind and Wockman-Wert (Herald Press: 2005), a wonderful cookbook by the Mennonite Central Committee, in the spirit of The More with Less Cookbook by Helen Janzen Longacre, also on Herald Press.

In my recipe, I’ve cut the oil. That small change lowers the calorie and fat content without any loss of flavor or texture. I’ve also decreased the amount of poppy seeds; for me, this measurement adds just the right amount of texture and crunch, but they could also be omitted, if desired.

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup raspberries
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon red onion, sliced thin
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1. Place maple syrup, oil, lemon juice, raspberries, dry mustard, salt and pepper in blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
2. Add red onion and poppy seeds to blender or food processor and pulse.

We may have fresh kale for our dinner, and there's at least one acorn squash to bake. All in all, an impressive Michigan garden contribution to a Christmas dinner.

Janice and Jim Leach tend a backyard plot in downtown Ann Arbor, where they try to grow as many vegetables and other plants as possible. For the last four years, they've published gardening tips, photos and stories at their 20 minute Garden website.



Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 1:50 a.m.

For those who don't have it in the garden, any leads on where to purchase horseradish root (in AA)? My CSA stopped including it. I used to find it at Busch's, but no more. Also no luck at Whole Foods. Sparrow used to carry a very spicy and fresh farm-prepared version, also discontinued. The stuff in the jar (Brede, etc) goes wimpy three days after you open it.

Jessica Webster

Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 3:40 p.m.

I saw horseradish root at the Whole Foods on Washtenaw on Friday night.

Jim and Janice Leach

Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 12:19 a.m.

@ Sarah: Seeing how long I can make food last is a fun, kind of pioneer-girl thing to do! (As long as I don't push it too far!) I consider our frozen raspberries to be very precious. This vinaigrette is good enough, however, that I've pulled from our dwindling store to make it a couple of times already! Thanks for your comments!

Sarah Rigg

Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 1:42 p.m.

I'm also enjoying eating from my garden -- and stuff from our farm share that ended the second week in October -- well into December. We've still got string beans from the farm share, frozen pesto from my own home-grown basil and frozen rasberries from a local U-pick farm socked away in the freezer and still have a few fresh (though slowly becoming less fresh) potatoes left from the last CSA box. I am thinking of using those frozen raspberries in this vinaigrette recipe- thanks!