Preserving Wild Mushrooms & Mushroom Stock for the Freezer

Preserving Wild Mushrooms & Caramelised Wild Mushroom StockPeople I don’t want to brag (okay, maybe I do), but I just found a truly epic quantity of St. George’s Mushrooms. About 4kg of them! I actually had to stop picking because I couldn’t carry anymore. They were everywhere!

St. George's MushroomsAnd the vast majority of them were happily maggot free!

St. George's MushroomsAll in one little patch of grass – the ground was laden. I had to watch where I trod carefully, picking just a little patch of grass to kneel on here and there while I harvested.

St. George's MushroomsAs usual, the inhabitants of the flats nearby eyed me warily, the looks on their faces changing to deep misgiving when they realised what I was actually doing. I will never cease to be amazed by people’s lack of curiosity about the food growing, literally, in their back garden. When bought from Stockholm’s restaurant supplier, these mushrooms cost 400kr/kg (about £40 or $60), yet none of the locals – in a pretty fancy suburb of Stockholm – were remotely interested. In fact, they were horrified.

All the more for me!!!

St. George's MushroomsWith so many of these mushrooms in my kitchen I had to find some way to preserve them. Not all wild mushrooms benefit from drying, and I already had a lot of dried shiitake and porcini in my pantry, so I opted for freezing. This method works well for all fairly substantial wild mushrooms – something slender like winter chanterelles or amethyst deceivers won’t work so well.

Preserving Wild Mushrooms & Caramelised Wild Mushroom StockTo prepare them for freezing, the mushrooms are dry sautéed or roasted in an uncrowded pan or baking tray. This drives off the excess water and browns the mushrooms, creating additional, more complex, mushroom flavours which will enhance any dish you use them in. This method also makes them more freezer-safe. The texture of cooked, browned mushrooms will be much more similar when defrosted than if you freeze them with all the water still inside.

Caramelised Wild Mushroom StockThe other benefit of preserving mushrooms in this way is that you can make a beautiful, rich mushroom stock in the pan when you are finished.

Preserving Wild Mushrooms & Caramelised Wild Mushroom StockAs they cook, the mushrooms release their juices which will evaporate and caramelise, leaving an incredibly flavourful residue on the pan. The heat needs to be kept high enough that the juices dry out almost immediately (to stop the vegetables stewing in their own water), but low enough that those gorgeous dried juices don’t burn. This isn’t very difficult – medium high heat is a good place to start and just adjust the temperature if you see something untoward happening. Making the stock is then a simple matter of deglazing the pan with a little water after you have removed the mushrooms and turned off the heat.

With such a huge glut of mushrooms, I am afraid it is inevitable that a slew of mushroom recipes is on its way…

I hope you like mushrooms!

Caramelised Wild Mushroom Stock

Wild Mushrooms & Mushroom Stock for the Freezer
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Ingredients
  1. as many wild mushrooms as you've got!
Stove-Top Method
  1. Cut the mushrooms onto pieces - the size depends on your preference and what you intend to use them for.
  2. Heat a large frying pan (I use a cast-iron skillet) over medium high heat and cook the mushrooms in a single layer, without any fat, until they are browned on all the major surface areas. Turn them as necessary to achieve this. Do not crowd the pan, or else it will become swamped with water and the mushrooms will stew in their juices instead. You will need to work in batches. If it looks like there's too much water in the pan, turn up the heat. The liquid should leave the mushrooms and caramelise on the pan almost immediately, but be careful not to burn either the mushrooms or the residue that is left in the pan.
  3. When you have finished, turn off the heat, set the mushrooms aside and add some water to the pan. Scrape up all the mushroom residue. If you have successfully avoided burning the lovely, caramelised mushroom juices as you cook, you will be left with a beautiful, dark, rich mushroom broth. If you have an absolutely huge quantity of mushrooms to sauté it may be better to deglaze the pan a couple of times as you cook, as if the dried juices sit in a very hot pan for too long, they will burn. To check if you have avoided burning it, simply taste the stock after. If it is bitter - unlucky! If not, enjoy an incomparably delicious stock!
  4. Freeze the mushrooms and the stock (if not using immediately) in portions - either in freezer bags or in containers.
Oven Method
  1. Cut the mushrooms onto pieces - the size depends on your preference and what you intend to use them for.
  2. Preheat the oven to about 230c. Arrange the mushrooms in a single layer on a baking tray. You may need to use more than one baking tray, depending on how many mushrooms you have. You do not need any fat. Roast until they are browned on all the major surface areas, stirring as necessary to achieve this. Do not crowd the tray, or else it will become swamped with water and the mushrooms will stew in their juices instead. The liquid should leave the mushrooms and caramelise on the pan almost immediately. You are less likely to burn the mushroom residue using this method (as opposed to the stove-top), but the stock that will result is less intense.
  3. When you have finished, remove the tray from the oven, set the mushrooms aside and add some water to the pan. Scrape up all the mushroom residue. If you have successfully avoided burning the lovely, caramelised mushroom juices as you cook, you will be left with a beautiful, dark, rich mushroom broth. To check if you have avoided burning it, simply taste the stock after. If it is bitter - unlucky! If not, enjoy an incomparably delicious stock!
  4. Freeze the mushrooms and the stock (if not using immediately) in portions - either in freezer bags or in containers.
Ramsons & Bramble http://www.ramsonsandbramble.com/

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