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Preserving Mushrooms













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Or, what to do with a really big haul

Pretty soon after starting to pick wild mushrooms you'll be faced with the problem of what to do with a really big haul of. You can, of course, eat them all in one go, but there's something to be said for keeping some for later use. Not only will you have enough to last you all year, but you won't get fed up to the back teeth of what should be an enjoyable foodstuff!
 
These are just a few of the ways that you can preserve mushrooms for later use.

Drying

This is the simplest and most versatile way of preserving mushrooms. The principle is quite simple, by driving off all of the water the mushroom stops metabolising, and also no spoilage organisms can grow and degrade the mushroom if it is dry. The only problem is that most of the mushroom is actually water, meaning you've got a lot to get rid of. So, how do you go about drying your mushrooms?
 
The String Method
 
If you only have a few mushrooms to dry, then this is the simplest way of doing it.
 
Slice up the mushrooms thinly, and use a needle and cotton to string all of the mushrooms together. If the musrooms are really thin, such as fairy ring mushrooms or anise caps, you can thread them onto the cotton whole. Use real cotton rather than an artificial material as this is less likely to stick or melt during drying. Once you have the mushrooms threaded string them up in the airing cupboard, in the kitchen, or in any similar warm location (a luke warm oven will do). When they're fully dried, and not before, unstring them and pack them away into airtight jars. In my airing cupboard this takes about 8 hours.
 
 

Wet
Thin slices of puffball to be dried

The Tray Method
 
If you have more than a couple of handfulls of mushrooms to dry, use the tray method. Many people use wire or wickerwork trays for this, but I find that ordinary baking sheets lined with some newspaper and a sheet of baking parchment works fine.
 
Arrange your slices of mushroom around the tray, making sure that they're not overlapping each other, and disgarding any slices that are maggoty. Dry them in a warm place, as above, and when they're dry (it takes about 8 hours or so in my airing cupboard) pack them away in airtight jars.
 
Drying works especially well for the boletus mushrooms. Cep in particular is dried as a matter of course by many pickers, who claim it tastes far more intense. I personlly add a few mixed dried mushrooms to soups, stews and even gravy, and find that this imparts an intense flavour to most things.
 
 

Dry
Dried mixed mushrooms, including parasols, deceivers, and rose-gilled grisettes

Most mushrooms can be dried. It's probably not a good idea to dry great big slices of giant puffball, or anything picked on a really wet day. Remember that mushrooms are mostly water, and they can absorb a huge amount of extra water in the rain. Your chances of successfully drying anything that wet would seem remote! But other than that this simple technique will allow you to enjoy the fruit of your autumn expeditions well into the next season.