Foraging and Pickling Wild Mushrooms

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While hiking on a hot August day with my hubby and dog in the cool shade of the forest – something bright and orange was coming out of the woodwork… We were lucky enough to happen upon a patch of Chicken of the Woods mushrooms. Striking and beautiful, these mushrooms are easily spotted if you’re in the forest at the right time.

These are their actual colors! The bright orange and yellow, and sometimes even a light reddish hue with white edges, stand out among the green of the forest. The young ones are the best. They are soft and tender and yep… they taste like chicken. The mushrooms become woody as they grow larger so if you find smaller ones pick them while you can.

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We usually saute these mushrooms in butter with a little white wine and shallots. This time we had more than we could eat in one sitting. So the question was: how can we keep these around to enjoy later? The Chicken of the Woods mushroom doesn’t dry very well. We did a little research and decide to pickle them.

Out of everything that I read, my favorite blog about foraging mushrooms is Forager Chef. I liked this blog because the chef provides great background information on the mushrooms… very scientific… and I love science facts.

I followed the recipe and instructions for the pickled mushrooms with two slight changes: I used rice wine vinegar and I choose only thyme for my herb. I allowed the thyme to boil with the mushrooms until they cooked through and all of the leaves fell off of the stems, so the stems were easily removed from the liquid.

My final brine recipe included:

5 cups water

2 cups rice wine vinegar

5 tsp kosher salt

10 sprigs thyme

1 large crushed and chopped clove of garlic

I broke the mushrooms into smaller pieces (about 1 inch wide and 2 inches long) and simmered them in the water with the thyme and garlic until they were soft. I added the vinegar and simmered a few more minutes.

I chose to can my mushrooms in smaller 1/2 pint jars. I processed them for 15 minutes in a water bath.

I had some mushroom brine left over that I couldn’t help but experiment with so I made a quick jar of refrigerator pickles. I didn’t open those yet… just a few more days.

We opened a jar of the Chicken of the Woods pickles today and they turned out to be delicious! I can not wait to try them in a recipe.

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