If you are fortunate enough to be able to cook with freshly foraged mushrooms, then you will know how delectably they can infuse any dish with a delicate earthy, smoky and somewhat nutmeggy flavor – depending on the variety. At Château Ladausse we are lucky to have a reliable mushroom source, our friend and the lady who works magic in our garden, Viviane. She has the golden touch. Mushrooms find her, not the other way around! She forages chanterelles, porcini, black trumpets, and pieds de mouton (hedgehog mushroom). We don’t have morels here unfortunately, but we’re not complaining given what we do have.
The Fall of 2021 was extremely generous for foraging wild mushrooms in the Haut Agenais region where we live. After several years of porcini drought, they were suddenly, well, “springing up like mushrooms”! The same was true for the other varieties. When such abundance occurs, we happily put them on our nightly menus and even with that, we may have too much to use at one time. That’s when we preserve them for later use.
Drying or dehydrating mushrooms is a very practical preservation method and it is simple and quick to do. Here’s the “recipe” for preserving them and how to use them after they’re preserved. Drying mushrooms is not possible for everyone, however, you can easily purchase dehydrated mushrooms in France at “épiceries fines”, gourmet food shops, or online. Look for sachets with windows where you can see that they are nice pieces free of forest debris. I would avoid the mixed forest varieties as these can be lower quality.
Drying Preservation Process for Chanterelles/girolles
- Clean and dry the mushrooms. Depending on the mushroom variety this process will differ. First remove the big leaves, twigs and dirt clumps that are found on foraged mushrooms, if using foraged. For chanterelles and other small varieties, fill large bowl with cold water. Place several handfuls at a time in the water. Quickly swirl around and remove immediately. Transfer to a colander. Re-fill the bowl with clean water and repeat until no more dirt is left. Lift with your fingers and transfer to a clean kitchen towel to remove the excess water. They should be laid out on the towel rather than stacked.
- Transfer mushrooms to a cooling rack that sits on a baking tray. They should be laid out in a single layer. The cooling rack allows the air to circulate on all sides.
- Place in a dry warm room (20°C) for a couple of days until dehydrated. We have a perfect spot underneath our wood-burning stove for placing the tray where it is not too hot nor too cool. In this spot, it usually only takes 1 day where the temperature is more like 23°C.
- Once completely dry, place in a jar with a lid, label and store on the shelf in a dry place (avoid cold, damp areas). If using a canning jar with the rubber seal, you do not need the rubber seal as I would suggest that it is better to have some air present. In any case, the mushrooms must be completely dry otherwise mold will grow inside the jar rendering them useless.
- To use, place dried mushrooms in a bowl. Any bowl is acceptable, except plastic.
- Pour boiling water over the mushrooms until just covered. Let sit to rehydrate about 10-15 minutes; time varies depending on size. Keep the highly flavorful water for using in sauces, soups, etc. Plastic bowls should be avoided because the boiling water could seep chemicals into your food.
- Drain softened mushrooms before using.
- You can also use them directly from the dehydrated stage if you will be adding them to a broth soup.
- In the vegetable stroganoff recipe from last week, I would just throw them into the pot after the vegetable stock has been added. I would forgo browning them in the pan as you would normally do if using fresh mushrooms, and instead, I would favor letting them rehydrate in the broth which will add a ton of full flavor.
- When making a mushroom sauce, add them directly to the finished sauce until softened. They will also add tons of flavour to the sauce. There is no need to rehydrate them in a separate bowl of hot water.