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Article: 9 Creative and Tasty Ways to Preserve Mushrooms

9 Creative and Tasty Ways to Preserve Mushrooms

9 Creative and Tasty Ways to Preserve Mushrooms

Whether you cultivate your own mushrooms or have a knack for hunting them in the wild, the fear is real: How on earth can you use up all of your bounty before it spoils? Too many mushroom devotees have experienced the sadness of opening the fridge to discover the fungi they so carefully collected have turned soggy with the aroma of old fish. A slightly dry mushroom can be salvaged, but a wet one? It’s a goner, sadly.  

Time is of the essence when it comes to mushrooms — and moisture is the enemy when trying to extend their life in a fresh state — but thankfully there are plenty of ways to savor their flavor for months to come. Read on for a round-up of tips, cooking techniques, recipes and more. From pickled mushrooms and compound butter to flavored salts and tea infusions, you’ll never run out of ways to preserve your mushroom hauls. 

Basic dried mushrooms 

Drying mushrooms is an easy, space-saving way to preserve them while concentrating flavor. To start, brush any loose dirt and debris off the mushrooms and set them on a clean kitchen towel to absorb any excess moisture. Slice them thinly and evenly. You can use a mandoline or a knife. 

If you have a dehydrator, keep the heat set to about 125F. Place the mushrooms on the screens and space them evenly so air can circulate. Check them every couple of hours, and it could take between 4 and 8 hours. You want them to be slightly pliable and bendy, not brittle.  

In the oven, keep the temperature as low as it will go. Place mushrooms in a single layer on cooling racks set on baking sheets. Prop the door open with a wooden spoon to help the water escape as it evaporates. The mushrooms should be dry within 2-3 hours.  

Let cool completely, then pack into airtight jars with tight-fitting lids. Use within 3 months. These also make lovely hostess gifts. 

Frozen mushrooms, 2 ways 

Have you ever bought frozen mixed vegetables that also contained mushrooms? In theory, they are a wonderful addition, but in reality they end up bland and water-logged. You can, however, freeze mushrooms in two ways to maximize their flavor. 

First up: Nothing fancy, plain mushrooms. Clean your mushrooms and pat them dry. Trim and cut into thin, uniform slices. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and freeze, then transfer to a freezer-safe container. Use within 3 months. The parchment prevents the mushrooms from sticking to the baking sheet. 

When you cook them, transfer the frozen mushrooms to a hot, dry skillet or pot. Allow the water to evaporate, stirring often, then add your fat (oil or butter), herbs and spices and aromatics like garlic, onions and celery. Cutting them thinly before freezing allows the water to evaporate fast enough so they can develop color and flavor in the pan. 

Alternatively, you can freeze cooked mushrooms for a meal shortcut in the future. Saute mushrooms any way you’d like. You can’t go wrong with garlic, olive oil, parsley and white wine, or carrot, celery, garlic, onion and oregano for an Italian-inspired sauce. Once the mushrooms are cool, freeze them in large ice cube trays (like those you’d use for soup) and transfer to a freezer-safe container. Use within three months. 

When you’re ready to cook, simply thaw out one or more cubes, then use in your favorite meals. 

Flavored salts

If you have extra-flavorful mushrooms like Porcini or Truffles, pulse small amounts of dried mushrooms with a quality coarse salt using a clean coffee grinder. Add any herbs and spices you like — try tarragon, rosemary, thyme, cumin or any combination you like, plus black pepper. You could also add dried garlic or even dried, sustainably foraged ramps. Store in air-tight jars for up to 6 months. This also makes a lovely gift! 

Mushroom-infused tea

Love herbal tea? Consider adding dried mushrooms to your favorite blend. This is a great way to use functional mushrooms like Chaga or Reishi. Just be sure to use small pieces of the mushrooms! Our Fantastic Fungi Community Cookbook has a recipe for Chaga Chai from Colorado’s Kristen Blizzard with cardamom, ginger, cloves, fennel, peppercorns, cinnamon, star anise and, of course, Chaga. (You can also simply brew up a mug of our Fantastic Mushroom Tea.) 

Mushroom stock and concentrate 

Mushrooms’ umami shines in stock, especially when you start by sauteing them to add some depth and color. Slow-simmer your mushroom haul until you have a deeply flavored base for soups, stews and sipping on cold days. Once cool, strain and pour into freezer-safe containers, leaving a ½ inch of space to expand. Use within 3 months, thawing overnight in the refrigerator, never on the counter. 

Soy-preserved mushrooms 

This is another clever recipe found in our community cookbook (page 252), and it’s a hit. Chef Don Pintabona of New York learned to preserve mushrooms from Japanese colleagues. When he opened the Tribeca Grill with actor Robert DeNiro back in 1990, soy-preserved mushrooms were an integral part of the most popular appetizer. He transforms shiitake mushrooms — already bursting with flavor — into umami bombs. Simmered in a mixture of rice vinegar, mirin, sake and soy sauce, the mushrooms get a little sugar to balance the rich saltiness. They’ll keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks (if they last that long). 

Compound butter with mushrooms 

This is another flavor-packed recipe that delivers umami to any dish. It freezes beautifully, too. Simply saute finely chopped mushrooms with anything you like: onions, shallots, garlic, herbs, etc. Season with salt and pepper and let the flavors concentrate. The mushrooms should be jammy. Let cool, then fold into room temperature butter. A good ratio is 2 cups of mushrooms to 1 stick of butter. Transfer to parchment, form a log or ball and refrigerate until firm. Slice into medallions and freeze for up to 3 months. Add this infused butter to everything from homemade sourdough and simple whole grains to steamed vegetables and mushroom steaks. 

Pickled mushrooms 

Check out page 251 in the cookbook for the full recipe here, but — yes! You can pickled mushrooms. Use small, tender ones along with plenty of herbs. Once you’re familiar with the recipe shared by Charles Luce of New Jersey, you can get creative with your own garden and forest hauls. Like things to be a little spicier? Sebastian Carosi of Oregon shared a recipe for sriracha pickled chanterelles (page 254). 

Mushroom shrubs or kombucha 

A shrub is a delightfully sweet-and-sour beverage made with vinegar, sugar and whatever ingredients you want to use to infuse flavor. The Fantastic Fungi Cookbook shares a recipe for Chanterelle Shrub — and we think using something like Reishi or Chaga would also be delightful. (Check out page 244 for the full recipe!)

Photo Credit: Mari-Liis Link

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