Forager's Mid August Update
by Office Number1Sons
August 18, 2020
Forager Tom of Villa Fungi shared these exciting mushroom updates with us!
"Exciting news, the hurricane and subsequent rains have prompted black trumpets to start growing again! In some parts of the DMV golden chanterelles have even started to flush again. If you get a chance to take a walk in the woods this week, you will see dozens of varieties of mushrooms. Good pickings for the Mystery basket!
Some of you will receive the fragrant chanterelle ( your 1lb or 1/4 lb bag will be marked fragrant ). This type of smooth chanterelle typically grows at higher elevation. As a forager it’s a mushroom that is exciting to find. If the wind is just right, the patch will reveal itself to you not from its vibrant color, but its wonderfully intense fragrant scent ( as the name suggests )!
Fragrant Chanterelle Cooking Note – this variety tends to release more water than other smooth chanterelles. Just remove any excess water after sautéing, because it can give your dish a hint of bitterness.
I am including some notes that my friend and fellow forager Jeff Long, a member and past president of the Mycological Association of Washington, has put together regarding mushroom preparation and cooking rules:
WILD MUSHROOM BASIC PREP & COOK RULES:
- Keep your Fungi dry. If you see any dirt or debris on the mushrooms, use a pastry brush or a slightly damp paper towel to brush it off. Don’t submerge them in water or rinse them (exception: some polypore mushroom can briefly be rinsed with water, such as Chicken of the Woods and Hen or the Woods). Mushrooms act like a sponge such that water will be absorbed, which consistently causes the resulting cooked mushrooms to be uncolored and taste diluted rather than flavorful. (If your mushrooms are extremely dirty and you are desperate, consider quickly submerging them in some cold water, but it is then very important to dry them excessively with paper toweling before cooking the fungi.)
- Tear or cut the Fungi to a relatively uniform size.This applies to a lot of things when cooking. If you are using a single variety of mushroom, tear — or if they either are less fragile or if they inherently tend to be brittle — cut the mushrooms so that they are all a similar size. Specifically, when preparing mushrooms for cooking, some mushrooms should be torn (primarily chanterelles, chicken of the woods, hen of the woods, etc.) and others are better sliced or diced (porcini, horse or meadow mushrooms, hedgehogs). If you are using a single variety of mushroom, cut (or tear, if appropriate) them so that they are all a similar size. Also, if you are cooking a mélange of mushrooms, you may need to size particular mushrooms differently, as some varieties of mushrooms will cook through and brown quicker than others. Finally, tearing your mushrooms will create somewhat irregular surfaces on the fungi, usually allowing them to better hold a sauce.
- Do NOT crowd mushrooms in your pan. If you have your fungi loaded up on top of or too close to each other in the pan, they will steam instead of fry or sauté. Spread them out so that they only just touch each another at most and they will color and caramelize or crisp up a bit at the edges.
- Consider adding salt to your Fungi at or near the end of the cooking process. Mushrooms are probably better seasoned with salt towards the end of cooking, as salt brings out moisture. For fungi, this may inhibit them from coloring properly and cause them to be somewhat less succulent.
- Use a cooking fat that is appropriate for the type of mushroom you are preparing. Most wild mushrooms can be cooked with either butter or a combination of butter and oil (olive or peanut or vegetable). Mixing butter with oil has the advantage of tending to raise the smoking point of the fat. However, certain fungi are not particularly “dairy” tolerant and butter and/or cream should be generally be avoided (maitake or hen of the woods, cauliflower mushroom, umbrella polypore) or your finished dish will tend to be “greasy”. Finally, there are a few wild mushrooms that are best initially prepared using olive oil and then adding just a pat or so of unsalted butter very near the end of the cooking process (porcini and other edible bolete mushrooms).
I hope these suggestions help you to enjoy the wild mushrooms I bring to your kitchen more!