Of all the mushrooms pickle recipes I have, pickled hen of the woods are one of the best. Read on and I'll go over the finer points.
Like any mushroom, hens are best when picked very young. They're certainly edible in their old age, even after they have released their spores, but these are going to be more prone to bug damage.
From my experience, hen of the woods will not have maggots until very old, but they will be preyed upon by slugs, who will carve large tunnels in them, and other bugs who like to chew them and leave powdery debris all over the place as they go.
The very young ones are a special treat, and it is rare you will find them in this state; they are tough to spot since they blend in. Should you find one in a very young state, with it's leaves still tight together, hard as a rock..... there is only one recipe you need. You must try pickling them.
The hen of the woods that I am showing you here is a great specimen, wonderful for pickling, but even this one is not as young and succulent they can be.
That baby hen had not even formed it's leaves yet, they were only small buds poking out from a giant base. When I pulled the leaves apart, they looked much more like club or clavaria mushrooms than a hen of the woods.
It was a giant baby hen, the youngest one I had ever seen, and it was still around 8-9 lbs. It was brought in by the first forager I ever met, a bit of a recluse of an old man; I will call him L. A retiree, L is so fond of hunting mushrooms and selling them to restaurants that he purchased a plane so that he could fly around to different woods, bringing his scores back into the Twin Cities.
He is a bit of an unsung hero to me, a retired guy who likes to be in nature, and a man who has provided wonderful things to restaurants since before I was a twinkle in the eyes of my parents.
This year I spoke to him via phone with some unfortunate news. I had to inform him we can't buy mushrooms anymore. He was sad, and so was I, and he himself had just spent thousands of dollars flying out to Oregon to take a mushroom certification course so that he would be able to sell to restaurants. When he got to the course, he was informed that it was only for morels, and that no other mushrooms can be sold!
Anywho, don't sleep on pickling the hen of the woods, they are some of the best wild mushroom pickles you can make. As always, you can add other flavors and herbs to your pickle liquid, make the recipe your own and find combos that you like.
Pickled Hen of the Woods
- 1 lb very young hen of the woods
- 3 cups water
- 1.5 teaspoon salt
- 1-2 large cloves of garlic
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme
- Two dried bay leaves
- 1 cup of champagne or white wine vinegar
- First trim and clean your hen of the woods, separating it into small leaves
- Bring the water, salt, garlic, and herbs to a boil in a large pot. Add the mushrooms, cover and cook until the mushrooms are wilted and cooked through, about 5-10 minutes
- When the mushrooms are cooked, add the vinegar
- Lastly, pack your canning jars full of the mushrooms and then top the jars off with the pickling liquid
- If you want to process them in a a water bath canner, you can do so for 15 minutes.
I have been out every day this week looking for hens or whatever else I can find, now that the fall rains have begun, but so far, no luck. I don't think the season is over yet, though. At least, I hope not.
How long do they keep if you do the water bath for 15 minutes?
Hi Eric, they will keep for a very long time, I've eaten them a year or two year after canning, as long a you don't mess with the amounts of vinegar, there is no problem. You can add spices and seasonings if you like, or add more vinegar if you like more zip, don't decrease it though since it is a preservative.
I have been scouting new mushroom spots and actually found old hen of the woods around the oaks, ( this is in the dead of winter) never thought I would, but found 4 different ones now.( small but positive ID). But any hoo, do you use any alum in pickling, hear different stories if its good for you or not.
Hi Eric, I don't find the use of alum needed in pickling. Some like to use it though, I know. I don't have an angle on it's health effects, I'd google that.
I’ve found several dried out hens. What do you recommend I do to them to fix their wind dried state prior to pickling (or maybe conserva would be better?) also had some maggots but I can’t really be picky when it come to hens.
I would reccomend blanching in lightly salted water. from there you can do whatever you want. No promises though since dried out hens can be hard to work with, you might be better off looking for new ones, or remembering the trees for next year.
Is this a shelf stable recipie then?
Yes. Make sure to fill the jars up to the very top with liquid, and make sure the mushrooms are completely covered with liquid if you don't process them in s water bath. If you're new to canning, use a ph tester.
I've just come home with a lovey, young Black Staining Polypore - Meripilus sumstinei - the smell is intensely 'mushroomy' .... makes me salivate... I had hoped that you might have some thoughts here on how to preserve it / cook it...... I always do your pickled Grifola frondosa - delicious throughout the year - I use the technique you talked about a year or so ago - lightly pickling/cooking them - them in small jars and filling them to the brim - sealing and inverting - works a charm. I also - use Hen to make jerky - I love it...... I wonder you might have up your sleeve regarding my 'little' Meripilus?????
Hi Pasha, since mushrooms like these tend to get tough after a heavy sear, I would brown it lightly in butter, then add some wine, stock and herbs, and braise until tender.
Can you pressure can the hen of the woods mushrooms.
Found a beautiful young hen (maitake) today Sept.20 in northern Wisconsin. Perfect!
Love your blog!
Congrats, and thanks.
In pressure canning hen of the woods how long and at what pressure for pint jars? What is the vinegar and water content?do you boil them first or will the pressure cook them?. Thanks for up your help. Unfortunately I thought of this as I’m cleaning 50 lbs of hen of the woods.
If you pressure can hen of the woods, you wouldn't even need vinegar since the temp gets above 248F. As far as the pressure and time, you're on your own as I don't pressure can. I would compare to recipes that use pressure canners to process venison and game meat, since they're similar here to mushrooms. Blanch the mushrooms first in salted water, preferably with some herbs in it, or just use vegeatble stock, make sure to use a bit of salt to taste in it though, otherwise they'll be bland. Good luck.
Hi There - In trying to read through the Q&A, I couldn't determine if this is OK to jar and refrigerate the pickled mushrooms. I've never canned (and am not that interested). Is there a frig life?
Hi Amy. Food in a pickling liquid will be completely safe in the fridge, as long as it is covered by the pickling liquid. If you refrigerate your pickles, you can even use less vinegar in the solution. See my recipe for conserve on that, which can also be canned. In the fridge, this recipe will last a long time...under the liquid they’d likely be fine until the next season, but I don’t usually keep pickles that long.
Would apple cider vinegar or plain white vinegar work as well in this recipe?
You can use any vinegar really, but regular white vinegar is very aggressive/strong tasting.
How long do you have to wait after canning to eat them?
Technically you could eat them while they’re still warm from the canning process, but they’ll be better after a week or so.
Thank you for the advice and idea!! My mom (God love her out there with her boots on at 72!!) brought home two smallish hens for me last week. I carefully cleaned them both, and ended up with about 4.5lb cleaned.
Using your recipe (I added fresh oregano as well) I cooked them up. I decided to go with half pints, as many will be Christmas Gifts this year. Ended up with 12 wide mouth half pints in the canner and an extra half pint for us to snack on. (We are a canning household - this a small project to us!!)
We ended up straining the leftover brine and using it to “fridge pickle” a few red onions. I could NOT bear to pour it all away! Has anyone else done anything fun or cool with the brine?
You can sure save brine, and if you have something to do with it, more power to you. I find that if I start saving every little thing though, my fridge becomes filled with all sorts of wierd things that don't have a home, and eventually I get ticked off and throw them all out.
Found probably my last hen this weekend. It was very young. I made this recipe and it was amazing. Instead of adding water, I put in sauce pan with salt and herbs on a very low heat and stirred every 7-8 minutes. In about 20 minutes, there was enough liquid to cover all the hen pieces. I then drained and measured the liquid and added 1 part vinegar to the hen "broth". The concentrated brine was the color of a light ice tea and tasted great. I think this will be my go to method from now on. Thanks for the recipe!
Do you have pickling directions for a beginner.? I have never canned anything and don’t know what a water bath is, but I have a large hen of the woods growing on a white oak in my yard in NC.
Google how to can with a water bath. It's very straightforward.
I FROZE a BEAUTIFUL HEN Last Fall .
Can I thaw and pickle it?
Yes, but you froze it raw, you should be cooking them before freezing in the future, they'll taste better.
I have found that as long as you go straight from freezer to pan or pot (skip the thawing process), you can maintain the texture and flavor of hens that were frozen raw.
Thanks Rich. I haven't tried it. My .02: hens are big and fluffy, and even after cleaning and cutting into smaller pieces, raw mushrooms take up a lot of room in the freezer compared to if they're cooked and vacuum packed, they also get freezer burn a lot easier. If it works though (and if you have the space) do it!
This is a delicious recipe, glad to have come upon it. Thanks!
You're welcome. It's served me well for years, and many other people too now.
Last fall I cleaned (but didn’t boil) a very large hen of the woods. Froze, ate, and dehydrated pounds. Had a lot left so put it in straight apple cider vinegar- like you would to make any medicinal tincture.
3 months later I strained out the mushroom, bottled the tincture, left it capped in the root cellar. 9 months have passed. All the ‘tincture’ is from the same ‘batch’ but an apple cider mother has formed in one bottle, one bottle is very cloudy, and one bottle exploded! So, I need some expert advice.... thank you!
can the water be replaced with white wine and would the vinegar over power the taste of the wine?
Sure, and yes the vinegar will overpower it. It might make a nice variation though, try it out!
thanks for getting back to me and i will try it and keep you posted on the taste
The pickled maitake turned out great! I toss them into different dishes, on salads, or as a side with a meal.
After I opened the first jar I added a jalapeno - just a personal preference.
Glad you liked them Lauri.
I got up this morning and pickled over 3 lbs of Maitake. Just realized that I forgot to add the salt! Oops! Do I open the jars, add salt and reprocess in water bath?
I have been enjoying your site! Quick queries: After the water & herbs boil, does one lower the heat after adding the mushrooms? I did so instinctively but wasn't sure if that is what you had in mind. Also, I imagined that one removes the pot from the heat before adding vinegar. Finally, the brine turned brownish in the pot -- not sure if it's supposed to do that or if that means I didn't clean the 'shrooms impeccably (I probably didn't!)
Bought some hen of the woods mushrooms at the farmers market today and tried making this. I made 1/2 the recipe so that I could have enough mushrooms to eat fresh and a few to dehydrate. This was very good and I'll make it again the next time I come across this. Thanks.
thank you for the article