As an avid mushroom forager, you know the joy of bringing home your harvest. However, mushrooms are delicate and perishable, losing quality quickly after picking. Preserving your mushrooms allows you to enjoy your bounty long after the season has ended. In this guide, you will learn tried-and-true methods for preserving mushrooms using drying, pickling, freezing, canning, and preserving in oil or alcohol. With some basic equipment and a bit of time, you can preserve pounds of mushrooms to relish all year. Whether you prefer the convenience of dried mushrooms, the tang of pickles, or the versatility of frozen mushrooms, this guide details the steps to achieve the best results for your needs. Follow these simple recipes and you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your foraging labors for months and years to come.
Why Preserve Mushrooms?
There are several benefits to preserving mushrooms. Preserving mushrooms allows you to enjoy them long after the short growing season and provides a practical way to avoid waste. Mushrooms are highly perishable, but with proper preservation techniques, their flavor, texture, and nutritional benefits can be maintained for extended periods.
Drying Mushrooms: A Simple and Delicious Way to Extend Shelf Life
Drying mushrooms is one of the easiest methods of preservation. They can last for 6-12 months. To dry mushrooms, follow these steps:
- Clean the mushrooms. Gently brush off any dirt or debris from the mushrooms using a soft brush. Do not wash the mushrooms in water as this can make them slimy and harder to dry.
- Slice the mushrooms. For small mushrooms, you can leave them whole. For larger mushrooms, slice them into uniform pieces so they dry evenly. The ideal thickness is 1/4 inch.
- Arrange the mushrooms in a single layer. Place the mushrooms in a single layer on a wire rack, mesh dehydrator trays, or baking sheets. Do not overlap the mushrooms.
- Dry the mushrooms. Place the mushrooms in a food dehydrator and dry at 95 to 115 F for 4 to 12 hours until the mushrooms are completely dried. Check on the mushrooms regularly and rotate the trays. Alternatively, you can dry the mushrooms in an oven on its lowest setting with the door propped open slightly. This can take 6 to 12 hours. The mushrooms should be dry and leathery.
- Store the dried mushrooms. Allow the dried mushrooms to cool, then transfer to an airtight container or ziplock freezer bags. Press out as much air as possible before sealing the containers. Dried mushrooms can last 6 to 12 months when stored in a cool, dark place.
By following these simple steps, you can enjoy the savory, umami flavor of dried mushrooms in soups, stews, and sauces or simply snack on them as is. Dried mushrooms have an intense, concentrated flavor that allows you to experience the taste of mushrooms year-round.
Freezing Mushrooms: Convenient and Versatile
Freezing mushrooms is a convenient way to preserve them for long term use. When frozen properly, mushrooms will last up to 10 months. Freezing also allows you to enjoy mushrooms out of season.
To freeze mushrooms, start with mushrooms that are as fresh as possible. Clean and trim mushrooms, then slice or chop them as desired for your intended use. Blanching the mushrooms before freezing will help them retain better quality. To blanch, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the mushrooms. Blanch small mushrooms for 1 to 2 minutes, medium mushrooms for 2 to 3 minutes, and large mushrooms for 3 to 5 minutes. Then plunge them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Drain the mushrooms thoroughly.
Flash Freezing for Best Quality
Flash freezing mushrooms as soon as they are blanched will preserve the best quality. To flash freeze, spread the blanched mushrooms in a single layer on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the mushrooms to an airtight container or ziplock freezer bag. Properly wrapped, frozen mushrooms will last 10 to 12 months.
Freezing Mushroom Varieties
The most common mushrooms for freezing include:
- White button or cremini mushrooms: Freeze whole, sliced or chopped. Best for cooking and stir fries.
- Shiitake mushrooms: Freeze caps whole or sliced. Shiitakes have an intense flavor and are best in Asian-inspired dishes.
- Oyster mushrooms: Freeze whole or sliced. Oyster mushrooms have a delicate texture and seafood-like flavor. Use in stir fries, soups or sautés.
- Porcini or other wild mushrooms: Freeze sliced or chopped. Porcinis and other wild mushrooms should be used within 6 months for best quality. Add to risottos, pasta dishes, stews or braises.
Tips for Using Frozen Mushrooms
To use frozen mushrooms, simply add them directly to the recipe frozen. There is no need to thaw them first. Add frozen mushrooms at the end of cooking or stir frying so they have minimal overcooking. You may need to increase cooking times for recipes using frozen mushrooms. One pound of fresh mushrooms equals about 2⁄3 to 3⁄4 pound of frozen mushrooms. Enjoy your frozen mushrooms in all your favorite recipes!
Pickling Mushrooms: A Tangy and Crisp Method
Pickling is a simple way to preserve mushrooms for long-term use while enhancing their flavor. The pickling process involves curing mushrooms in an acidic solution of vinegar, water, salt, and spices. When done properly, pickled mushrooms can last for several months.
To pickle mushrooms, you will need the following ingredients:
- White vinegar or cider vinegar
- Kosher salt or pickling salt
- Sugar (optional)
- Pickling spices (such as bay leaves, mustard seeds, peppercorns, garlic, dill, oregano, thyme, etc.)
- Fresh mushrooms (such as cremini, shiitake, oyster, etc.)
- Sterilized jars
Rinse the mushrooms and pat dry with a towel. Trim the stems and slice the mushrooms. Pack the sliced mushrooms into sterilized jars.
In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, salt, sugar (if using), and pickling spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow the brine to cool to room temperature.
Pour the brine over the mushrooms to cover completely. Seal the jars and refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 days before eating to allow the flavors to develop. For shelf stability, you can also follow approved canning methods to process the jars.
The pickling brine typically consists of equal parts vinegar and water, with salt added for taste. A good starting point is 1/2 cup each of vinegar and water and 1 tablespoon of salt per quart of brine. You can also add sugar, spices, garlic, or fresh or dried herbs for extra flavor.
Store refrigerated pickles for up to 3 months. Pickles processed according to canning methods can be shelf-stable for 6 to 12 months. Enjoy your pickled mushrooms as a condiment, addition to salads, or snack. The tangy and crisp mushrooms are a delicious way to preserve your harvest.
Mushroom Butter: A Rich and Earthy Compound Butter
Mushroom butter is a compound butter flavored with mushrooms. It has an intense, savory flavor that is perfect for topping steak, seafood, or vegetables. To make mushroom butter, you will need the following ingredients:
- 1 pound mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake, or oyster mushrooms
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots or green onions
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Clean the mushrooms and slice them. For cremini or white mushrooms, remove the stems. For shiitake or oyster mushrooms, remove the stems only if they are tough. Slice the mushrooms.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and have released their liquid, about 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the thyme, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
- Add the chilled mushroom mixture to the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a medium bowl. Use a fork to mash everything together thoroughly.
- Transfer the mushroom butter to an airtight container or roll into logs and chill before serving. The mushroom butter will keep refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.
- To serve, spread the mushroom butter on bread, steak, fish or vegetables. The earthy, savory flavor of the mushrooms pairs beautifully with robust meats like steak or game and complements many vegetables. Mushroom butter also makes a wonderful topping for pasta or risotto.
Mushroom butter is a simple way to preserve the flavor of mushrooms. When mushrooms are in season, make a large batch of mushroom butter to enjoy for months to come. The intense mushroom flavor will enliven your cooking all year round.
Mushroom Pesto: A Savory Herbaceous Sauce
Mushroom pesto is a savory sauce made from mushrooms, herbs, nuts, and olive oil. It has an earthy, umami-rich flavor and creamy texture, perfect for tossing with pasta or as a spread. Making your own mushroom pesto allows you to control the ingredients and create a sauce tailored to your tastes.
To make mushroom pesto, you will need the following ingredients:
- 8 ounces of mushrooms (such as cremini, shiitake or oyster), cleaned and trimmed
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Place the mushrooms, garlic, basil, pine nuts, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are coarsely chopped.
- With the processor running, slowly stream in the olive oil. Process until the mixture reaches your desired consistency, scraping down the sides as needed. For a chunky pesto, pulse briefly. For a smoother sauce, process for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. The pesto can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. The olive oil will help prevent oxidation, but the basil may turn brown over time. Freeze for longer storage.
- Toss the pesto with cooked pasta such as linguine or penne. It also makes a great spread or dipping sauce for bread. You can add a bit of the pasta cooking water to thin out the pesto if needed.
- Optionally, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool, then add to the food processor with the other ingredients. Toasted nuts will add more flavor to the pesto.
Mushroom pesto is a versatile sauce that allows you to make the most of mushrooms and fresh herbs. Experiment by substituting different kinds of mushrooms, nuts, and herbs to create your own unique blend. Enjoy!
Mushroom Jam: A Sweet and Savory Spread
Mushroom jam is a savory-sweet spread made from mushrooms, sugar, and spices. It has an intense umami flavor and a jam-like consistency, perfect for serving with meats, cheeses, or crusty bread. Making your own mushroom jam is surprisingly easy and allows you to control the ingredients. The basic steps are:
Choose mushrooms that hold up well during cooking and have an intense, savory flavor, such as cremini, shiitake, or porcini. Rinse the mushrooms thoroughly, then trim and slice them. For the best results, use a mixture of mushrooms.
Caramelizing the Mushrooms
Melt a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the mushroom slices in an even layer and let them cook undisturbed until browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then stir and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid and it evaporates, 10 to 15 minutes total.
Adding Sugar and Spices
Once the mushrooms have caramelized, add sugar, balsamic or red wine vinegar, and spices like thyme, rosemary, garlic, or shallots. For every 4 cups of sliced mushrooms, add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sugar, 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar, and spices to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are very soft and the mixture is jam-like, 10 to 15 minutes.
Adjusting Flavors and Finishing
Taste and adjust flavors as needed, adding more sugar, vinegar, or spices. The jam should taste intensely savory, balanced with a touch of sweetness. For a smoother jam, use an immersion blender to partially blend the mushrooms. Cook until the jam reaches your desired consistency. Let cool, then refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or can according to canning instructions for shelf stability up to 6 months.
Spread mushroom jam on bread, bruschetta, or crackers. Serve it alongside meat, poultry, or cheeses like goat cheese, cheddar, or blue cheese. Mushroom jam also makes a unique condiment for burgers or a topping for steak. Use it to glaze vegetables before roasting for extra flavor.
Mushroom and Herb Infused Oils: An Aromatic Cooking Oil
Mushroom infused oils are a simple and flavorful way to preserve the essence of mushrooms for cooking. As mushrooms have a high moisture content, they do not preserve well through drying or fermenting alone. By infusing mushrooms into oil, the oil absorbs the mushroom flavor compounds, resulting in an oil perfect for dressings, marinades, and sautéing.
To make mushroom infused oil, start with fresh mushrooms and a neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point, such as grapeseed, sunflower, or safflower oil. Clean the mushrooms, removing any dirt or debris. Roughly chop the mushrooms into chunks.
Method 1: Cold Infusion
For a cold infusion, combine one part mushrooms and two parts oil in an airtight container. Place in the refrigerator for at least two weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain out the mushrooms through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. The oil will keep for several months refrigerated. The cold infusion results in a mildly flavored oil.
Method 2: Hot Infusion
For a more intensely flavored oil, make a hot infusion. Combine one part mushrooms and two parts oil in a saucepan over low heat. Gently heat until bubbles start to form, about 140 F. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain and bottle as above. The hot infusion will produce an oil with a much stronger mushroom essence.
Method 3: Pressure Canning
For long term shelf stability, pressure can the mushroom infused oil. Clean and chop mushrooms as above. Combine one part mushrooms and two parts oil in a pressure canner jar. Seal and pressure can according to canner instructions for low-acid foods. The oil can be shelf stable for up to a year.
Mushroom infused oils add depth of flavor to many dishes. Use them in salad dressings, to sauté vegetables and meats, or to marinate mushroom risottos and pastas. The aromatic and savory flavors of the mushrooms infuse the oil, allowing you to preserve the taste of mushrooms year-round.
Having read through the various methods for preserving mushrooms, you now have the knowledge to preserve nature’s bounty and enjoy mushrooms year-round. With the proper technique, equipment, and care, you can have a pantry stocked with mushrooms preserved using methods best suited to your needs and tastes. Whether drying, pickling, freezing, canning, or making mushroom powder, you have learned the key steps to follow for success and safety. Preserving the harvest allows you to save money, reduce waste, and gain a sense of satisfaction from being more self-sufficient and connected to the food you eat. Now it is time to gather mushrooms, select your preservation method of choice, and get started on stocking your pantry with homemade mushroom goodness to enjoy for months to come. The ultimate guide is now in your hands – go forth and preserve!