There are hundreds of different kinds of wild mushrooms in Wisconsin. Some are edible and delicious when prepared, while others are poisonous; but the vast majority are not considered edible because of their small size and poor flavor or texture. Mushrooms grow in a wide variety of habitats, and are important as decay organisms, aiding in the breakdown of logs, leaves, steams and other organic debris — working to recycle essential nutrients in the environment. There is no test or characteristic to distinguish edible from poisonous mushrooms. The Ohio State University has an informative guide to wild mushrooms. Search Ohioline for ‘Wild Mushrooms HYG-3303′. But consumers are urged to use caution when eating foraged mushrooms.
Mushrooms can be preserved using several techniques, with varied results.
Preserving mushrooms – canning. Select only brightly colored, small to medium-size white button mushrooms (from the market) with short stems, tight veils (unopened caps), and no discoloration. Safe methods have not been established for canning wild mushrooms! Mushrooms, whole or sliced, may be canned in 1/2-pint or pint jars in a pressure canner. See the National Center for Home Food Preservation for an approved recipe, or Wisconsin’s Guide to Canning Vegetables Safely.
Preserving mushrooms – pickling. A tasty treat on any relish or hors d’oeuvres tray is pickled mushrooms. Because mushrooms are low in acid, it is important to use a tested recipe for pickling. Only commercially grown white button mushrooms can be safely pickled. The recipe for Marinated Whole Mushrooms available from the National Center for Home Food Preservation is safe and delicious.
Preserving mushrooms – freezing. Both wild and commercial mushrooms can be safely frozen, as long as they are edible. Choose mushrooms free from spots and decay. Sort according to size. Wash thoroughly in cold water. Trim off ends of stems. If mushrooms are larger than 1 inch across, slice them or cut them into quarters. Heating is required to preserve mushrooms ‘at their best.’ Either steam or saute mushrooms prior to freezing. Delicate mushrooms such as morels will benefit from a light saute prior to freezing.
Preserving mushrooms – drying. For supreme flavor, try drying mushrooms. Not only is this the easiest way to preserve mushrooms, it also provides you with a real flavor treat. Mushrooms should be dried on a dehydrator, not out-of-doors. Either commercial or edible wild mushrooms can be safely dried. Choose mushrooms free of dirt and decay. Rinse gently and dry. Slice into sections for even drying. Place on a dehydrator tray or rack and dry until brittle or crisp. Mushroom ‘chips’ are a real taste treat. For a flavor boost, dry mushrooms and grind to a fine powder. Spoon the powder into soups and stews, or add to dough when making fresh pasta.
A comprehensive guide to preserving mushrooms (canning, pickling, freezing, and drying) is available from Oregon State University.
Safe preserving! Barb