Black staining polypores are an underappreciated cousin to hen of the woods and chicken of the woods. They have an irresistible flavor comparable to black trumpets.
A number of years ago I got an envelope in the mail, ground dried powder of Meripilus sumstinei, the black staining polypore or rooster of the woods. it the first time someone sent me mushrooms in the mail I'd never met, which, is now a pretty regular occurrence (currently I'm waiting on honey truffles to arrive from Hungary).
It was a small amount, not too much to play with, and I never got around to working with it. But, I remembered the name of the mushroom, and made a point of remembering the fact that someone liked them so much they felt compelled to mail them to me.
Years went by, and I forgot about them, since Meripilus is quite rare in MN and WI (I’ve never seen anyone in the area post pics of them). Not satisfied, the mushroom gods sent me another message.
Last year, my friend Jacqui mailed me a fresh specimen...from France. I walked into the communal entry at the apartment building I keep for a test kitchen and immediately smelled mushroom, a very rich mushroom. In the hallway was a little box marked with all the postal trappings of a long journey.
I grabbed the box, opened it up, and was hit with a walk of umami aroma. Unfortunately, the journey was a little too far, and temperature a little too warm, and what I could see was once a very young polypore was now a blackened lump, the paper bag it was lovingly wrapped in wet with juice. I examined it for a bit, thinking I might be able to salvage some, and, knowing how virulent mushroom poisoning can be from eating past prime things, thought better of it. The smell stayed with me though, and, even though it was past prime, it made my mouth water.
Like a lot of things in life, the third times a charm, and this year I stumbled on my own black staining polypore. It was early August, and I was checking one of my burr oak spots for porcini.
Like hens and chickens of the woods mushrooms, Meripilus sumstinei is a wood parasite, infecting trees and eating them from the inside out, appearing in a rosette shape similar to hens and others like Bonderzewia berkleyi. Mine was growing on a burr oak stump, in an area typically rife with hens, albeit at least a month early.
The smell, noticeable from a distance, was intense, to say the least. It's a complex aroma, that, to me evokes something like a hen of the woods crossed with a touch of black trumpet mushrooms, begging to come back to the kitchen with you.
There’s a catch though: unlike hens and chicken of the woods, black staining polypores are tough from the get-go, really tough, as in eating leather tough. The smell and flavor are so good though, that even if you brought them home and ground them up and made mushroom chew, I'd think it would be worth it, come to think of it, it's not a bad idea either.
If you look online, you won’t see much other than ID blurbs though, and I was surprised to not even see a recipe online for something as obviously useful as a simple broth made from them. Furthermore, multiple others proclaim it completely inedible, and not worth your time, insinuating it should be called garbage of the woods.
After working with it intimately for the past two weeks I can tell you for certain: nothing is farther from the truth. The black staining polypore is a great mushroom for the table, with a deep, rich flavor all it's own. It’s tough, leathery texture just means you need to be creative. Claiming it's unworthy of the table is just plain laziness.
After doing the happy dance for a while in the woods around my stump, I messaged others I know who’ve cooked Meripilus (Jacqui and @chefswild, the latter being a near bottomless resource on them).
While most of the black staining polypore will be tough as nails, the outer young margin of ½-1 Inch can be cooked fresh if sliced into a thin julienne, and it's excellent like that. It will still be slightly chewy, but it’s a good chewy, and spooned onto a steak, burger, or just straight from the pan dripping with butter, will make your toes curl from the umami.
With the large mass of a polypore, harvesting say, a 5 lb mushroom and getting ¾ lb of cookable trim might seem like a poor yield, and it is, but that tender-ish trim is packed with flavor. Made into duxelles, they have near endless uses. The woody trim can be dried and used for stocks and powder.
Simmered with nothing more than a clove of garlic, a bay leaf, a few scraps of herb stems, or even all alone, with nothing more than water and some salt to finish, the final liquid is a deep tasting mushroom nectar that cries out to be the base of ramen, dashi, or a light broth, or used as the base for something like risotto, where the duxellles can be stirred back in to reinforce that special Meripilus flavor.
Hands down the crowd favorite I've made so far was inspired by a 100% black staining polypore burger @chefswild made. I didn’t have enough to make multiple burgers, so I channeled the James Beard blended burger project and mixed my duxelles with fresh ground beef from the farm.
They were one of the best burgers I’ve had to date, with the mushroom flavor coming through even alongside typical sharp condiments like mustard and pickles.
There's lots of possibilities for using these mushrooms. So, in closing, if you come across a black staining polypore, consider bringing some back with you to experiment with. And, if someone brushes them off and says they’re not worth eating, consider inviting them over to eat their words, or maybe drink them in a cup of broth. They're a mushroom definitely worth the extra work it might take to get to know them.
Black Staining Polypore Broth
- 4 cups chopped Black staining polypore mushrooms, roughly 1 inch or smaller pieces, or simply torn
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 garlic clove whole
- 5 peppercorns
- ¼ of one small onion skin on
- 8 cups filtered water
- Kosher salt to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a pot, cover, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for 1 hour.
- Strain the stock, then cool, transfer to a labeled, dated container and refrigerate until needed. Season it to taste lightly with salt. The stock will keep for at least a week if not longer, and can be frozen.
Black Staining Polypore Risotto
- Wooden spoon or spatula 10 inch saucepot or similar
- ½ cup Black staining polypore duxelles see recipe
- Kosher salt to taste
- 4-5 cups Black staining polypore stock see recipe
- ¼ cup Shallot or yellow onion diced small
- 1.5 cups Risotto rice like carnaroli, arborio, baldo, etc
- ½ cup Dry white wine
- Splash of cooking oil
- 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¾ cup grated parmesan plus more for serving
- Fresh chopped Italian parsley or chives to garnish, optional
- In a wide pan, say 10-12 inches diameter, sweat shallot on medium-high heat in the oil until translucent, then add the rice, stir to coat with oil and cook a few minutes more. Don’t allow the bottom of the pan to color.
- Add the wine, duxelles and salt, and cook until the pan is nearly dry, then begin ladling in the stock gradually in ½ - ¾ cup increments, waiting until the stock is absorbed before adding the next lade. Don't add salt yet if your polypore broth is seasoned.
- When the rice is just barely cooked through, add the butter, the parmesan and parsley, stir vigorously until incorporated, taste and adjust the seasoning for salt if needed, and adjust the consistency with a little extra stock. You may have extra stock leftover--that’s ok.
- The flavor should be mushroomy, cheesy, and delicious, and the risotto itself should be thick and creamy, but also flowing and loose. Portion the risotto into soup bowls. Jiggle the sides of each bowl after plating so that each bowl of risotto is flat. Serve. Pass extra grated parmesan at the table.
- 1 lb Ground beef preferably 80/20.
- 6 oz Meripilus duxelles see recipe
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Mix the duxelles and ground beef well, then cook a small amount to taste. Depending on how strongly you season your duxelles, you may or may not want to season the burgers. Generally I season burgers ahead of time and mix for a better texture, flavor, and shelf life raw. If you can, leave the burgers uncovered in the fridge for at least a few hours before cooking for the best crust.
- Season the burgers lightly with salt and pepper, then cook over a hot fire or in a dangerously hot cast iron skillet to your desired temperature. Medium is plenty.
Definitely the most underrated shroom???? makes great veggie burgers too.
Is there a recipe for 1oo% veggie burger?
When I find a larger one.
Hi Alan. Am I, Sam Schaperow, the Sam S you wrote about? I don't recall sending you some of that mushroom (unless it was sent after you sent me lobsters?). Are you certain it was me, and that it was that mushroom? Did you do something with the dried ones I/someone sent?
I don't read all your posts in their entirety, sometimes reading or not based on the title, so if you ever want to give me a heads up that I am mentioned, that would be cool.
For tough mushrooms, the most dazzling experience I had, which I wonder if you know about, is when a chef braised Berkeley's polypore for many hours and made a sauce with them.
Alas, mobility issues and other factors limit my ability to mushroom hunt. Perhaps one day that will change.
Yes. It was from you. I have an image with your name on the back of the envelope to prove it ;). Still haven’t had Berkleys yet.
Haha, well I just can't get out of any credit now. The other question is how do you know it is that mushroom I sent and not Berkeley’s polypore?
Haha, well I just can't get out of any credit now. Tjhe other question is how do you know it is that mushroom I sent and not Berkeley’s polypore?
Also, so it seems you haven't used that powder so far. Do you want to do so and let us know how it is? Lastly, how does it taste and smell raw at this aged point?
I thought I was the only one who loves this mushroom's flavor! I missed out this year and am very sad. I've used the powder in an acorn mole sauce.
Pickled (more or less your chicken of the woods pickle recipe) also very good.
Outstanding post! I often collect this mushroom when I find it (I had them popping up on the root of a hickory stump for several years. The risotto is a great idea. I stock of pretty much the whole fruiting body, and have even pressure canned it (really kicks up a simple rice dish, using it in lieu of water and adding a pat of butter and some minced parsley after cooking). I’ve also taken the most tender parts, and after making stock with them, ground them and added egg & panko as a binder, then seasoning them (I’m fond of a splash of sesame oil, a little soy sauce & some chopped green onion, salt & pepper), formed them into patties and fried them as veggie burgers. Really, though, the stock alone would be worth gathering it for.
Thanks yeah the 100% Meripilus burgers are on my list.
Yep, the BSP was one of the first neighborhood mushrooms I collected because we have a LOT of them around here in central VA, and they are often quite large. I make stock all the time, used the tender edges in pasta, and have given fermenting a whirl, too, trying to capture the inkinessof the "black-staining" part. Haven't dialed that in yet, but also haven't tried since switching to the vacuum bag method.
really appreciate the unique spots. youre really shining a spotlight on how diverse cooking can be so worth it
A BSP fan, after cleaning it and shredding by hand, I put it in the slow cooker with celery, onion, garlic , herbs and water to cover, for several hours. I cool it in the broth, then strain out all the solids, keeping and freezing the delicious broth. I then run all the solids in the food processor for the main ingredient of veggie burgers to which I add some chopped, fresh sweet pepper and onion, an egg and maybe a drizzle of tamari. Terrific veggie burgers that need NO meat. BTW, I use all of the BSP except the tough “stalk”.
Thanks, yes I'm dying to try the 100% Meripilus burgers, but I didn't have enough this round.
Thank you for this!!! My yard is a veritable Meripolis haven, and we usually get 5-10 of them per year. I don't eat them, because allergy, but give then away to friends to enjoy. Now I have a site to send them to as well 🙂
I just went on an evening walk with my husband to check "my" dead beech tree for Meripilus and they have just flushed. I scored a bunch of ultra-fresh new rosettes and am gloating over them and deciding what to make. Alan, I would try to mail you more but I fear it would go terribly wrong again, especially with the state of your postal services. I mailed my sister in Ohio some books in French and it took a month for them to arrive...
What I collected this evening seems so young and tender that I think I can just shave up the whole 1.7 kg I brought home, but I am so so tempted to make the slow-cooked jerky...
Any suggestions would be more than welcome.
SO glad I found this post! I ID'd the black staining polypore (Meripilus giganteus here in the UK) but everything I read online proclaims it to be horrible or not worth your time! I cooked up a small amount to do a nausea test, and it is outstandingly delicious and mushroom-y. Going to dry the woodier bits and make mushroom powder, and sautee the tasty trim in butter!
I found my first Meripilus sumstinei today on an oak stump I was weeding around in my very small yard in New England. I made the broth and the risotto, which I had all the ingredients for - including all the herbs in my kitchen garden. It was wonderful! I rearranged my whole afternoon around a mushroom and it was totally worth it! My foraging friends agree that this is a way under-appreciated mushroom!
Laura, I'm so glad it worked for you. Isn't the broth delicious?
Jon P LeCroy
This is a year later than the post so not sure anyone will read it. BPs grow all over my yard and since they can be slightly chewy like seafood, I cook them in a scampi sauce with butter, garlic, lemon, herbs and white wine. They are delicious. If you get them right after a few days of rain and they are smaller than about 5" you can eat almost the whole mushroom. Later than that and you can only eat the tips.
"Rooster-of-the-Woods". Maybe because it's tougher than Hen-of-the-Woods? It's named after an amateur mycologist who lived in Pittsburgh, PA, and is plentiful around here in the summer. Anyway, it smells so good and when cooked tastes so good, that I pull it into long shreds and fry in butter, when it ends up ranging from crunchy to chewy like beef jerky. Yes it's chewy this way, but so it beef jerky and we pay lots of money for that, plus I'm using a lot more than just the tips. I will have to try grinding it up and putting it in burgers as mentioned. One interesting thing that may also help with identification: I like to put wild mushrooms in a saltwater bath to make sure any bugs get out. This mushroom in a water bath with some iodized table salt turned the solution a distinct red-orange very quickly, 10 minutes or so. I don't think Hen-of-the-Woods would do that?
I just harvested my first Meripilus sumstinei growing in my yard. I would guess it’s close to 10 lbs! All of it besides the base/stem is soft/tender. I tore some of it into strips and sautéed it in butter, garlic & onion w/ a little salt and white pepper. All I can say is WOW! absolutely delicious! There’s only two of us here so I have at least half a dozen meals worth of it. Can anyone tell me how long it’ll stay fresh in the fridge? And how to store it? I have it all cleaned and drying in between towels. Has anyone tried dehydrating to use later in broth’s etc.? Also would love a veggie burger recipe made with these if anyone has it! We are vegetarian so I can’t do the one with the ground beef. I’m really surprised how good this is after reading so many articles online saying it was just meh tasting. Thanks for any recipes or tips you can throw my way!
As I mention in this post they make excellent broth. Some people grind them up fresh in a food processor and patty them up as-is for burgers. When I get another nice one I'll be sure to get a version up here.
Thanks 😊 I’m simmering some broth right now and going to try the risotto also. I have plenty to experiment with burgers too. Have a great weekend!
Wow. Plain broth, just the mushroom, nothing else, so good. Thanks for this.
Glad it worked for you.
currently got the broth boiling away - I just added a clove of fermented garlic. Smells amazing. Will be adding a dash of miso and some bull kelp for a mushroom-y miso soup.
Oh BSP miso sounds soooo good! Def going to try that.
Delicious broth and risotto. Made the duxelles as well. Thank you!
Jamie Elizabeth Parry
I've just harvested one of these for the first time from a local hedgerow oak stump here in Wales. I knew straight away it was going to be good. Being obviously fibrous enough to need a good cooking, I fried some quite hard and threw it into a box choi noodle soup with some chili and lemon juice. The flavour was exquisite and we binged on it!
Having come home with several pounds of it, the rest is being dried or frozen for later and I'll certainly try burgers. We're vegans, and most of the meat substitutes out there just don't have anything like the texture that this mushroom offers. It's a real treat.
Glad you liked it Jamie.