I’m lucky and grateful to have a network of friends that hunt different plants and mushrooms. We share information on places we’ve hunted, seasonal changes, what’s coming up when, and it helps to have company sometimes since mushroom hunting is for the most part a solitary sport.
Last year my friend Matt, a local artist and mushroom hunter who’s working on collecting specimens for a new mushroom hunting and cooking guide for the Midwest he’s working on, brought me by a bag of Lactifluus volemus, (formerly Lactarius volemus) with the caveat that I keep my eyes peeled for a few mushrooms he needs photography specimens of to include in his book, scouring the land for individual species of shrooms is a lot easier said than done.
He dropped off a bag a couple bags of them, and mentioned something about their aroma, which my line cooks were quick to describe with colorful adjectives revolving around intercourse and bodily fluids. Lets just say that you can use the, “cheesy” smell as a way to help identify them.
In the summer, after picking on a hot day and put into a warm car, you may need to roll the window’s down, but when they hit the pan the smell transforms into a rich, nutty flavor. They’re one of the best of the Lactifluus family I’ve tasted, and I’ll say I might prefer them to any of the L. delicious (saffron milkcap) group that I’ve had so far.
Since my friend introduced me to them, I’ve been able to pick them growing spots at a number of different places, most of the time they seem to like the same habitat as lobster mushrooms, which will be mixed deciduous hardwoods around the Twin Cities and Midwestern Minnesota, In Northern Minnesota you’ll likely see them with various conifers, but I have yet to find them up there.
Here’s a few casual notes on them
Cap: brown to light brown or tawny
Spore print: white
Latex (milky liquid they give off when cut): white, not hot or bitter slowly stains brown or stains bruised mushroom flesh brown. These give off much more latex than other species I’ve eaten
Habitat: growing with mixed hardwoods and oaks in Minnesota
Aroma: cheesy, fishy, rich
David Arora says they’re one of the best eating mushrooms in North America. While I had them in the restaurant I cooked them alongside a selection of summer mushrooms for a few fungi loving guests, the volemus as well as fragrant black trumpets (Craterellus foetidus and cinereus) beat all other mushrooms I served them with: boletes, chanterelles, lobster mushrooms, club fungus, chicken of the woods. Like I mentioned their smell completely goes away cooking, it gets nutty, pleasant and mild. Here’s a recipe that highlights their slightly fishy/cheesy quality.
Lactifluus Volemus with Shrimp, Smoked Paprika, Garlic and Parsley
Serve this with some toasted bread to mop up any juices, or just wipe the pan with the bread and keep it to yourself.
Great on top of some noodles tossed with olive oil, or on toast for an open faced sandwich.
Serves 2 as an appetizer
- 2 ounces fresh Lactarius volemus, stems sliced 1/2 inch, caps quartered (roughly 2 cups of mushrooms)
- 2 ounces fresh small shrimp (I like to use 16/20 size here) peeled and de-veined
- Pinch of paprika
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
- Good pinch of fresh chopped Italian parsley
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Splash of dry sherry
Heat the butter and olive oil until sizzling add the mushrooms and shrimp and increase the heat to high until the shrimp and mushrooms are gently browned. Add the paprika and garlic and cook for a few moments. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the sherry and de-glaze. Finally toss in the parsley and serve immediately.