I’ve posted and written about a number of different ways to preserve wild mushrooms. There really is no substitute for fresh mushrooms in everyday cooking, but we can get pretty close. Of course they can always be pickled for long term storage, but there is another recipe I have, almost in between a pickle and a marinade. I’ll share it with you.
I have seen mushroom “conserva” and “conserve” both on the menus of various restaurants. They are the same thing, conserva is just the Italian translation. You could use either descriptor when referencing them in conversation, although the Italian is a bit more romantic sounding, as are most things when spoken in “la bella lingua”.
The real magic about mushroom conserve is that it lacks the low ph of true pickling liquids, but not by much. Conserves also include oil, which I do not like to can unless done in a pressure canner, since it can go rancid. Kept under their liquid, the mushrooms will stay for a very long time. Some recipes online will say they keep for about a month, let me tell you though, I have kept mushrooms stored like this in restaurants for way over a year, having absolutely no loss in the quality of the product whatsoever.
The lower amount of vinegar in conserve recipes gives you an advantage in that the mushrooms retain more of their flavor. I guarantee you, once you try this recipe, you may never want to simply pickle mushrooms again, although for the sake of saving refrigerator space, you may have to.
I have used hedgehog mushrooms here because they are probably my favorite for conserve. For the most part, hedgehogs are kind of considered the golden chanterelles ugly brother, for this recipe though, I like them much more than chanterelles. There is just something about the way juice clings to the teeth under their cap, soaking it up.
You could use a lot of different mushroom species for conserve, but know that aborted entolomas and any species of puffball must be caramelized until lightly golden in oil before the vinegar and liquid is added, otherwise they will not taste as good.
Puffballs are especially horrible pickled without caramelization on high heat, they shrivel and taste like some god awful cousin of tofu. After a bit of color is added from cooking though, they transform and their flavor blooms, getting nutty and wonderful. Other species I would suggest using are morels, chicken of the woods, hen of the woods and even cultivated mushrooms, like shiitakes or oysters.
There are a couple things that are good to know about preserving mushrooms this way, and I would give the same advice for pickles. Here are some tricks I’ve learned after using this recipe for many years, at the restaurant, I make this in 80lb batches!
- Only use young mushrooms for conserve and pickles, small tight buttons will yield the highest quality product. Larger, more mature mushrooms are better dried, or if they are a species that cannot be dried successfully, such as chanterelles or hedgehogs, you could make them into a duxelle, or chop them, or cook in lightly salted water and freeze. Duxelle is a slightly better method of presevation in my opinion, frozen mushooms end up tasting a little dry, although they are usable.
- Don’t go crazy with the flavoring ingredients. A small sprig or two of an herb that is not overpowering (stay away from rosemary) is just fine. Adding a whole bunch of herbs, garlic and spices will make your mushroom conserve (or pickles for that matter) taste like medicine, and can make them have a bitter flavor which isn’t good.
- If your mushrooms are really dirty, its ok. Once they are in the preservative liquid, they can be shaken and agitated to remove the dirt, afterwords, remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon, strain the liquid through cheesecloth or a towel, and then recombine the two.
Hedgehog Mushroom Conserve
Like I mention, I use this for many, many, mushrooms, not just hedgehogs. This recipe is for 5lbs of fresh mushrooms, a restaurant batch, which makes a lot of conserve. Scale it down if you need to.
- 5 lbs small, young hedgehog mushrooms or golden chanterelles
- 5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 1/2 cup flavorless oil for sauteeing, such as grapeseed or canola
- 1/2 cup flavorful oil, such as extra virgin olive oil
- 1 full tablespoon of kosher salt
- 2 qts water or court bouillon
- 1/2 cup champagne vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- In a wide pan with high sides, or even a soup pot, gently heat the oil and the sliced garlic until the garlic begins to turn golden.
- Add the mushrooms, salt and herbs, and allow the mushrooms to give up their juice and stop the garlic from getting too brown.
- Once the mushrooms have wilted and given up their juice, add the water or court bouillon, then bring the mixture to a boil.
- After the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat off and add the vinegar and flavored oil of your choice. Season the liquid to taste with salt until it tastes nice.
- Finally, put the conserve into a container and refrigerate. If you will be keeping the conserve for more than a few weeks, make sure to put plastic wrap on top of the conserve to keep the mushrooms under the liquid, other wise bacteria from the air might harm them. Under the liquid though they will keep for a very, very long time.