Apricot and mango horseradish? World’s most creative, tasty horseradish for Passover

So what’s Passover 2022’s special flavor? Shapiro has decided to go back to one of the classic flavors that everyone loved a few years back: Apricot.

 The Pickle Guys. (photo credit: THE PICKLE GUYS)
The Pickle Guys.
(photo credit: THE PICKLE GUYS)

If you walked through the Lower East Side in the past few weeks you may have seen the most awkward situation: men wearing gas masks at a Kosher pickle store, making horseradish, or Chrain in Yiddish.

Horseradish has become over the years a Passover condiment. At the Seder we eat ‘Maror’, a bitter herb that reminds us of the bitter times the Jewish people have gone through. In addition, beetroot horseradish is commonly served with gefilte fish – another Jewish food that is served on Passover.

“We go through about 5,000 pounds now in two weeks; it’s hot, the fumes build up over time and it can get unbearable,” Alan Kaufman, the owner of ‘The Pickle Guys’ said in answer to my question. “When we used to be in the old location, it was just 700 square feet and the fumes fill the store, also the person who is grinding it, every so often you get a big whiff of it and it hits you hard. We started using gas masks also because two of the pickle guys were military, one from the army and the other from the marines.”

The Pickle Guys is a pickle company operating out of New York City. They use old-school methods of pickling, the way it was originally done in NYC. During the weeks before Passover, they make their special horseradish that is a very popular item.

Kaufman explained that there are two types of horseradish; “Red Horseradish is made with a beet brine we ferment ourselves, fresh beets, salt and water, very similar to the Russell borscht we also make. The white is made with salt, water and vinegar. We also make a dry version with nothing added to it for maror.”

 The Pickle Guys. (credit: THE PICKLE GUYS) The Pickle Guys. (credit: THE PICKLE GUYS)

Is there anything special about your Passover horseradish?

“Yes, we make it every year for as long as I can remember, 40 plus years. This has been a tradition we kept since one of the original stores dating back to 1910. They are made fresh and are super hot.”

Even though many customers around the world have asked Kaufman to send over some pickles or horseradish, they only deliver in the US. “Sorry, we do not ship out of the country, we have in the past to England because a customer really wanted it and was willing to pay the overpriced shipping - but we don’t like to ship it out of the country because it gets hold at customs at times and may take two weeks to clear and that is not good for our products.”

So even though the Pickle Guys horseradish is made in an interesting way, there isn’t anything too creative about the product itself. So have you ever tasted mango or citrus horseradish? We were able to actually find someone that has a rare hobby: creating the weirdest flavored horseradish you’ve ever tasted.

Mark Shapiro, President & Chief Executive Officer of the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center (JCC) is that guy.

“As a child, my grandfather who emigrated from Russia, used to chop the horseradish root in an old wooden bowl with an old chopper. My passion for this actually started way back on the back porch of his apartment in Rogers Park in Chicago. He would sit there chomping on a cigar, sometimes lit, sometimes not. And he would laugh as our eyes would tear from making that horseradish right there.”

Shapiro said that his grandfather would “throw in some sugar and vinegar and we would just keep chopping.” After his grandfather passed away, he decided to take a break from making horseradish. But when he moved to Milwaukee about 17 years ago, he really thought about Passover as that holiday and decided to “bring back making fresh horseradish sauce myself, so I started about 15 years ago and have been kind of carrying on that tradition ever since.”

After the first year or two of making just the traditional white and red beet horseradish he just came up with an idea and thought: “wouldn’t it be nice to put my own twist on it? With the holidays being very much focused on dried fruits and the need to consume them, I just grabbed a couple of different ideas.”

His first year’s flavor was actually dried apricots. The second year he added figs and dates “and then just kept exploring from there.” So what types of horseradish has Shapiro created?

“I’ve done mango, pomegranate, fig, and date and I’ve never really gone into the idea of prune. The only flavor that actually should never be done again was citrus lemon and lime. Let me just tell you: stay away from citrus.”

“I have never sold it,” Shapiro said. “You know, this is all about spreading the joy of new traditions for me, and really just making sure that families have something to keep passing on. My joy is making big huge bowls of it, and putting it out, and inviting people to come and pick up their favorite or quite frankly, all of the flavors each year. The staff of the JCC look forward to it every year.

“For me and my family, it’s a great joy to know that we are present on other people’s Seder plates or tables. It’s a wonderful way to be a part of a community. As the CEO of the JCC we’re always looking for wonderful and exciting ways to carry on traditions, create new traditions and build community.”

So what’s Passover 2022’s special flavor? Shapiro has decided to go back to one of the classic flavors that everyone loved a few years back: Apricot. “It’s spectacular this year, that perfect balance of the heat of the horseradish root and the beautiful sweet flavor of apricots. This year, I really did focus a lot on making sure that we stayed with the traditional Eastern European flavors, which quite frankly is a Ukrainian original idea. I used recipes that came from the former Soviet Union countries; the original white horseradish and the addition of the red beets, which I think every Seder table needs.”

He added that “I had my first opportunity to actually teach a taste of traditions class here from our JCC. We offered an online horseradish–making class and had lots of great reactions and participation. Everyone loves their Passover horseradish”.