The eve of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, was once a time of tears for women like Morris Gold's mother and grandmother.

Rosh Hashana meant gefilte fish, and gefilte fish meant horseradish - the powerful condiment that stings the eyes and clears the sinuses.Gold, 77, recalls watching the women of the family sitting on milk crates by the window of their Brooklyn apartment, peeling and cutting up horseradish and beets.

And crying.

Housewives (and husbands) at the turn of the 21st century need not cry over horseradish anymore - mostly because of the Gold family, by far America's greatest purveyors of bottled horseradish.

"We'll do the crying for you," proclaims Morris Gold.

Gold's started selling horseradish during the Depression, and now has accounts in virtually every state (Hawaii yes, Alaska no). It sends horseradish to England, Aus-tralia, Israel, South Africa, Russia and Brazil.

Now reaching into a fifth generation of Golds, the privately held firm estimates its share of the U.S. market at about 70 percent, with annual sales between $15 million and $20 million.

" `Fresh, fresh, fresh,' my father has always preached to me," Morris' son Marc says over the din of machinery in the company's Long Island plant, where 75,000 pounds of horseradish roots are ground and bottled each day. "That's the key to our success."

A combination of the grated horseradish root with vinegar and salt (with beets for the slightly weaker red version) is all there is to the mixture that has been called everything from magic elixir to aphrodisiac.

"People are uneducated about horseradish," explains Marc, 48, who runs the business with brother Steve and cousins Neil and Howard, all of whom have had their teenage daughters working summers at the plant for the past couple of years. "It perks you up because it opens your pores and makes you sweat. Try mixing it with mustard or on a tuna sandwich and you'll never go back to eating without it."

Though mostly known for use around Rosh Hashana and Passover, horseradish also has strong sales for Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving.

"Horseradish is by no means just a Jewish item," says Marc Gold, a true horseradish evangelist. "It works on turkey, on steak, in salad dressing. Since you can enjoy it on virtually any type of food, the uses for it are unlimited."

Named for "galloping roots" which grew in the wilds of Eastern Europe, horseradish comes mostly from the Midwest and eastern Canada. The gnarled roots are shipped to Gold's in burlap sacks or 1,300-pound wrapped pallets and are kept in a storage room at 34 degrees.

The horseradish is shredded, mixed with salt and vinegar and then crammed into Gold's patented six-sided glass jars at a rate of 180 jars per minute. It takes about two minutes for an empty six-ounce jar to be filled, capped, labeled, sealed and boxed.

In the room where the boxed bottles await pickup, the aroma of horseradish is so strong that eyes water within minutes.

Gold's began in 1932 with Morris' father, Hyman.

Gold's also makes borscht, mustard (about 3,500 gallons a day), cocktail sauce, duck sauce, sorrel soup, salsa, even ketchup and steak sauce. But horseradish - and tradition - are Gold's bread and butter.