Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Project Mushroom: How to dry wild mushrooms the cheap way

Posted by Amanda Villaruel |
Drying food is one of mankind's oldest ways of preserving food - including edible, wild mushrooms. The beauty of dried mushrooms is that they can last for many years - if stored properly.

In the last month we've found plenty of funnel chanterelles, but unfortunately I'm the only one in the household who enjoys eating mushrooms, so I had to find a way to store them. When you've spent hours in the woods looking for edible mushrooms, you really don't want to waste the fruits of hard labor ;-)

Here's how I've dried wild mushrooms without a dehydrator.
Project mushroom: How to dry wild mushrooms the cheap way
Project mushroom: How to dry wild mushrooms the cheap way

Firstly, the advantages of dried wild mushrooms

  1. Dried mushrooms can last for many years compared to frozen mushrooms that can last up to one year (frozen chanterelles last a couple of months)

  2. It takes less space with dried mushrooms than frozen mushrooms. I don't know about you, but I don't have a large freezer and I like to freeze food products other than mushrooms, thank you.

  3. It's also my experience that dried mushrooms retain their intense and delicious flavor compared to frozen mushrooms :-)

Before drying, you should rinse the mushrooms by brushing off dirt and cutting away inedible parts. Large mushrooms such as porcinis should be sliced thinly to shorten the drying time, but also to check for worms. Chanterelles are rarely eaten by worms, but still - I like to cut the large ones open to check for unwanted visitors ;-)

I've dried chanterelles a couple of times, but as far as I know the same drying technique can be applied to many other wild mushrooms. Not every type of wild mushroom is suitable for drying, so do some research first before you invest time in drying.

How I dried the chanterelles

There are many ways of drying mushrooms (read more below). You can even get special equipment such as food dehydrator, but I don't have one and I don't intend to invest in one either.

I dried the chanterelles in the cheapest and old-fashioned way:
  1. Placing old newspaper on the bathroom floor. 
  2. I laid the chanterelles nicely on the newspaper and with some space between them. 
  3. Then I added another newspaper page on top of the mushrooms. 
Drying chanterelles on the bathroom floor without floor heat
Drying chanterelles on the bathroom floor without floor heat

Did you know that mushrooms contain 80-90% water? After 48 hours in a bathroom without floor heat, the newspaper pages had absorbed the water and my mushrooms had shrunk considerably and were cracker dry. 

To prevent mould in your mushrooms, they should be completely dry before storage. The mushrooms should be so dry that you can break them apart with your fingers. If you can bend the mushroom, give it more time to dry.

Dried chanterelles after 48 hours on the bathroom floor, without floor heat
Dried chanterelles after 48 hours on the bathroom floor, without floor heat

Transfer the dried mushrooms to airtight containers, or clean glass jars with lids will suffice. Then store the containers in a dark, dry and cool place.

How to use dried mushrooms

When ready for use, soak the mushrooms in lukewarm water for at least 30 minutes. Then place the mushrooms on a kitchen towel to absorb excess water, before going into the pan.

You can also grind dried mushroom for sauces and stocks, or even make spices or wild mushroom butter.

Other (cheap) ways to dry wild mushrooms

  1. Dry mushrooms in the oven
    • Place the baking sheet with the mushrooms on lowest rack at 50°C with the door slightly open for 2-3 hours
  2. Hang them up to dry
    • Thread the largest mushrooms with a needle and string, and let the smallest mushrooms dry in the bathroom or on the kitchen bench with newspaper
  3. Dry the mushrooms inside or outside in the sun (avoid humid conditions)
  4. Drying rack method
    • Place newspaper pages on top of a drying rack and a portable electric radiator under the rack. Remember to air the room to avoid humidity.

Freeze or dry the mushrooms?

If you're planning on eating the mushrooms in the next few days or weeks, I would choose to freeze them because it's easier and more convenient.

As you may have noticed, it takes time to dry mushrooms (even a dehydrator takes at least 4 hours), so I wouldn't bother drying them if I want a chanterelle sandwich in three days.
Dry sautéing black chanterelles in the pan
Dry sautéing black chanterelles in the pan

Before going into the freezer, I fry them in a dry pan to get rid of the liquid (also called dry sautéing). After a couple of minutes, they're ready to be tossed in a tupperware. I let the mushrooms cool down before I place the tupperware in the freezer.

So, for long-term use - I would prefer the drying method. I sometimes want to make chanterelle soup for my soar throat in the wintertime, when local mushrooms are unavailable ;-)
Dry sautéed chanterelles ready for the freezer
Dry sautéed chanterelles ready for the freezer

Do you know of other ways of drying mushrooms? Please share in the comment field below :-)

Continue to read:
September seasonal food - the root vegetables.

Quick and yummy beet hummus recipe.

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