The first time I saw mushrooms drying in great abundance was in Northern China in the Shanxi Provence. We stopped for some tea at a tiny morning market where the women had piles of wild mushrooms laid out on cloth drying in the morning sun. They had collected the mushrooms from the peaks of the Wutai Mountain, a luminous, foggy, pine and temple covered wonder. Though i don't speak their language, they managed to explain to me perfectly their continuous pilgrimage to collect the mushrooms from the mountain during the different seasons. I will never forget it, it was such a beautiful moment. I dried many wild mushrooms in the summer and fall of this year inspired by those women. It was my first time doing so and I am really happy with my stockpiled pantry of little treasures. Wild mushrooms are easy to dry. Though there are different ways of drying mushrooms I sliced most of mine thinly with a very sharp knife and laid them out to dry on a board. The oyster mushrooms I tore gently in long tin strips. Depending on the weather (if it was very humid for instance) I sometimes put a fan on the mushrooms or used a clip light to speed the drying process. In the end you want the mushrooms to be cracker dry before you put them up for storage. I know our children's friends thought us fairly insane with mushrooms drying all over the place but for the most part I think they kind of liked it, especially when I make them late night pizza or breakfast pizza with mushrooms and a fried egg on top! They are willing to put up with almost anything for pizza.
Some mushrooms dry and store better than others. Some of the varieties that dried well for me were; Black Trumpets, Chanterelles, Chicken Of The Woods, Hedgehog, Porcini, Yellow Foot, and Oyster mushrooms. Dried mushrooms should be soaked in water to re-hydrate them. Some mushrooms need to soak longer than others. Save the water that you soak the mushrooms in, never throw it away, it is like flavor gold! Once the mushrooms have plumped up from the water, Gently spoon them out of liquid and give them a rinse. Set them aside for your recipe. Put the remaining mushroom liquid through a sieve to get any bits out of it. You can use that liquid to flavor soups and broths. Dried mushrooms can also be pulverized in a food processor in order to make a powder to use in soups and stews and other recipes. I recently made a gin drink with wild ginger syrup and used a mushroom salt for a little flavor on top. I am already fanaticizing about next mushroom season! In the meantime I am going to invent some new ways to use all these dried beauties.
When the mushrooms are cracker dry, I put them up in sealed weck jars for storage.
A good source for wild mushrooms on line is wildgourmetfood.com
Recipes to come!
to see a gallery of wild mushrooms click here