Yes, May has been good this year in that I scored two good batches of morels and so far the oysters have been plentiful and easy to find. Last weekend I was out to the upper Chapman Creek area and there were lots of oyster mushrooms everywhere. We picked only the best looking ones and only the young ones, leaving the more mature ones for our wild woodland brothers and sisters.
This year I have decided to try freezing more of my finds than drying. Last year I dried pounds and pounds of mushrooms so I still have plenty. One authority on the preservation of mushrooms recommends that certain species need to be aged a year or two after drying to mellow and deepen the flavor. One in particular is the shaggy grey parasol or the Lepiota rachodes…
I love the strong earthy flavour of these mushrooms and the deep dark colour they give to anything you are cooking. Almost like the flavour and colour you get from soy sauce, but without the saltiness. And I must say that the flavour profile has deepened and improved.
These mushrooms are great when fresh as they are like a portabello. However when dried, they don’t re-hydrate as well as some as they are mostly gill tissue. The taste and flavour is still very good. What I do now is to throw the dried mushrooms in a blender and pulverize them. This way you can add them to any dish and the blend right in. Good to add flavour and complexity to a dish, without having the “non mushroom lovers” picking all the mushroom bits out of the sauce. Try it with almost any dried mushroom.
Last year we had a fairy large group-foray up to the Rainy River. We ended up getting a great haul of Boletus edulis, or the King bolete. In Italy this is truly a favorite and known as the porcini. These are one of the choicest of the fungi family and when most people think of the taste of a wild mushroom, it is likely this mushroom they are eating.
They were delicious, and I had some fresh in a light cream sauce ( the way my mother cooked most mushrooms my dad picked) and dried the rest for use over the winter. The dried too were delicious, but didn’t have the same deep wild, woodsy, exotic aroma and taste that the dried porcini I bought at the Italian deli had. Why?
I did some research and it seems that it could be “terroir”, or soil and habitat they grow in. Most European picked porcini don’t necessarily come from Italy, but from Poland, and other eastern Slavic countries.
It could be that what we call the King Bolete here in North America is a related but completely different species with it’s own flavour profile.
One interesting fact I read was that in Italy, the porcini are dried over a wood fire. Maybe that drying process adds some of the aroma so unique to the porcini found in those little, very expensive plastic packages.
With that in mind, this year I plan on doing a bit of experimenting to see if I can reproduce that quality in our own local mushrooms.
Today while out on my morning walk I spied a nice cluster of oyster mushrooms just down the road from me. Once I pull the bread out of the oven, I will head done there and pick them. Last year I built a pretty rustic smoker and did some amazing salmon in it.
I think I will give it a whirl tonight to see if I can smoke a few oyster mushrooms.
Oh about the bread…Chris had a meeting, so had to leave me in charge of the the rising dough she had started. Since we retired she has been baking bread on a regular basis…. nothing better than some fresh mushrooms, sauteed with garlic, chives and thyme, a splash of white wine; piled high on Chris’s home made toasted bread, topped with freshly grated Parmesan and black pepper.
Keep walking out there and your eyes on the ground. Hope to see you in the woods some day.