January 27, 2015

black radishAbout a million years ago, long before I ever thought I would write a blog, let alone a book, I was invited to a friend’s home for Passover. Jean had a family, two kids, a dog, a house and school pickups and all those other things that I, single girl, city dweller, didn’t even have on my radar screen.

The dinner was sensational. The foods, some traditional and familiar to me, others new experiences. The dinner was better than any I ever had at my grandmother’s table (sorry, Gran). (Except maybe the chopped liver because that was my grandmother’s God-given gift: the lightest chopped liver in the world. Sorry, Jean.)

Jean served a black radish spread/condiment before the meal, alongside the chopped liver. I couldn’t get enough of it. And for years, it haunted me. I wanted to make it but I couldn’t find black radishes anyway so the desire would come and go.

radish in jarThis year, Bending Bridge Farm had black radishes at the market and that did it. I started researching, reading many stories of radish and schmaltz. Take that, you radish and butter people. I’m upping the ante.

Why I never looked into my grandmother’s recipe cards is a mystery to me, but until I researched the yiddish, I wouldn’t have looked twice at a scrawled index card with the title “Retachlict”. Radish. And a few notes. 2 radish, 1 sm onion grate + salt. Squeeze. and 2 spons (sic) schmaltz and pepper. Wait 2 days.

It’s divine.

radish toastPickled Black Radish (Retachlict mit Schmaltz)
2 half-pint jars

3 medium black radishes
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1/3 cup schmaltz or duck fat
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Peel and grate the radishes using a food processor, a mandolin to juilenne, or a box grater. Grate the onion. In a medium bowl, salt the mixture well and stir with your hands.

Place a dish in the bowl and weight it to press down on the radish. Let it sit on the counter for at least an hour or up to four hours.

Rinse the radish well and wrap in a tea towel. Squeeze with all your might to remove as much moisture as possible.’

Stir the radish onion mixture with the schmaltz. Taste and add plenty of salt and pepper and stir again. Pack firmly into the jars and refrigerate.

Let the dish sit at least two days, preferably four, before eating. Spread it on a piece of toasted rye. Top chopped liver. Try it on a meatloaf sandwich.

23 Responses to “how to eat (a lot of) black radish”

  1. gluttonforlife

    When black radishes were available at our farmers market, I overheard some older Russian people reminiscing about eating it with schmaltz on black bread and was always curious about it. Thanks for schooling me, Cathy!

    • Zora Margolis

      That’s the way my Canadian-born parents would eat it when I was a kid. I don’t remember that onion was involved, but I could be mistaken about that. Definitely grated black radish and schmaltz, usually on corn rye bread. For them, it was almost a Proustian experience, a flash back to their childhoods in Belarusian immigrant homes. I didn’t like it at all, back in the day. But I have to admit, I haven’t tried it with my grown-up’s palate, and Cathy’s description intrigues me. There are black radishes at the farmers’ market, and I have some good schmaltz on hand. Then all I’ll need is the right kind of bread…

  2. Elizabeth

    Yum, that sounds delicious! I’ll have to find or grow some black radishes and try this. My mom would’ve loved this also. I also haven’t had a corn rye bread since I was little and visiting my grandparents in Brooklyn. Hmmm…another mission.

  3. Catherine Jordan

    I’ve never seen or heard of black radishes. Other than color, how are they different from regular red radishes? Could I make this with red radishes? Well, obviously I can – but would it work? your thoughts?

  4. Cathy

    Catherine, I might say the black radish is closer to turnip than to the spicy red radishes we know… but that in no way should dissuade you from grating some spicy red radishes and dousing them with a good glug of schmaltz.

    • Marsha

      Actually, my mother used to make this exact same thing with turnips – so you could also try that.

  5. Scotty

    I’ve never heard of black radishes. Sounds intriguing. I’ll try nearly anything once. IF I ever find black radishes….what would make a good substitute for duck fat? Bacon? I can’t tell you how many years its been I last had duck.

  6. farmerkhaiti

    How unusual and awesome! Wondering if Schmaltz is just fat, or can it be all the gelantinous goodness at the bottom of the roasting pan after you take out the chicken? I often add beer to the pan when I roast a bird and the next day it’ll be like beery chicken aromatic jello, which sounds gross, but is divine on toast!

    • Cathy

      Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat. I put some onion in mine, too. That fond on the bottom of the pan? I completely agree – it’s divine.


    thought this was the vegetarian section… what non-meat substitute is there for schmaltz?

    • Jc

      There is no real substitute for schmaltz. Basically it’s rendered chicken pr duck fat. That’s the fat off the checked and rendered or simmered down to a thicker consistence after it melts. A healthy person can easily absorb a little of this fat without any consequences to any organs to cholesterol. Must look for it in the kosher section of a grocery. I use schmaltz for my award winning chopped liver. And in Thanksgiving, I use the turkey liver instead of or combined with chopped livers – so much smoother. Try it! You’ll like it¡

  8. Susan Lynn Meyer

    I can’t resist saying that my first novel is called BLACK RADISHES (Penguin Random House 2010)! I’m planning to try your recipe next spring when I see them in the market!

  9. Mark Zanger

    I don’t know why one could not make this vegan with margerine or kosher for passover with EVOO, other than some risk of bitterness. it won’t taste like schmaltz (for which goose fat was the gold standard) but I have sliced black radishes, watermelon radishes, and daikon for years with olive oil and salt, and everyone loves them. The French eat radishes with butter.

  10. Marley

    How long will it last in the refrigerator ? Bring to room temp to serve ?

    • Cathy Barrow

      It will last a week or so. I like it best at room temperature, but there are times I’ll eat it cold right from the fridge because it’s just that good.

  11. EmilyZ

    If you sauté a little onion in coconut oil, then strain the oil off and let it re-solidify, you get a lovely vegan/pareve “schmaltz”.

  12. Csilla

    Actually, we Hungarians eat black radishes in a very similar way – we put a generous amount of schmatz/lard on a slice of fresh bread, and put the salted and strained black radishes on top. I got intrigued by your recipe though, and have to admit, Retachlict mit Schmaltz is even a bit better than our beloved version (fun fact, we call radishes “retek” 🙂



  1.  Links: Marmalade, Black Radish Relish, and Jar Love - Food in Jars

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