Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Preserving Chanterelles

Since there are an abundance of chanterelles (especially Cantharellus lateritius) in the woods these days, I thought it might be good to go over a few storing and preservations tips that I have come across over the years and found, in my own experience, to be generally helpful.

As for storing the chants. They keep best when they are kept in either paper bags or cardboard boxes in the fridge. Like all other mushrooms, do NOT store them in plastic bags or containers of any sort. The mushrooms produce a gas that gets trapped by the plastic and begins to break them down. After a day or two all you have left is a mushy mess. Also, do NOT clean them prior to storage and they will last longer. In a paper bag they start to dry a bit in 3 to 5 days but you can still find good ones (or good pieces) for up to ten days. In a box, they can last two, three, even four weeks depending on how fresh they were when picked.

As for preserving chanterelles, I haven't found a good method for freezing them. I have tried sticking them straight in the freezer fresh (like you can do with hen of the woods) and I have tried precooking them a bit first (the way I prepare fried morels to be frozen) and both left me with a much mushier mushroom than I desired once thawed and cooked.

Many people dry them, though I don't do this too much because they tend to be much chewier than I like once reconstituted. I do dry a few each season for using in soups and stews. So, here are a few tips that will help. First, only use the cleanest specimen and DO NOT wash them in water, just remove any embedded debris that you can. You can dust off any dirt once they are dried and not so fragile. Second, cut them into small pieces, mainly consisting of the cap and largely discarding the stem. Last, dry them very slowly at a low temperature under 100 degrees F. Following those steps will help reduce the chewiness.

The best way to preserve chants is to can them. Now before you try this step, you must be well schooled in canning fruits and vegetables. The last thing you want is a bad case of Botulism. This is the first year that I have canned chanterelles, so I looked around the web and followed these instructions. They seemed to work well and I canned over ten pounds. I opened a jar last week to cook with them and see how they tasted and was pleasantly surprised by the freshness (granted these were only canned a week and a half ago, so not a true test). Here are the directions I followed.

To can chanterelles, clean them thoroughly and cut them in big chunks and steam for 20 minutes. Place the pieces in small canning jars and cover them with the liquid from the steaming vessel or boiling water to make up the difference. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon vinegar. Finally, sterilize them for 40 minutes in a pressure cooker at 10 pounds pressure. (Excerpted from

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hydnum repandum - the Sweet Tooth or Hedgehog Mushroom

I was out picking more smooth chants over the weekend. They are out in force and larger than I have ever seen them due to the rain. I found one area where the chants were so large five of them made a pound. We are talking 6 to 8 inches across. The way they split and flay out when they get large makes them look like large orange flowers bursting forth. If you come across a patch like this in the woods, you cannot miss them even from 100 feet away.

While out picking, I thought I would check a hillside in which I had found hedgehog or sweet tooth mushrooms on in th past. Either my timing or the moisture was off before because in 2006 and 2007 I did not find any hedgehogs in this area, but I was hoping with all the rain my luck would soon change. And I was right, because I uncovered a small patch (just under a pound) of the sweet little guys.

As you can tell from the photos, they look a lot like a faded chanterelle from the top but when you turn them over and see the teeth then you really know what you have. Because of their teeth, they are one of the safest wild mushrooms to identify as there are no other look-a-likes (poisonous or edible) so they cannot be mistakenly identified for anything else.

Although they look, feel, and even smell a little like chanterelles, when cooked they are a different animal. They do have a somewhat similar flavor to chants but they have a subtle sweetness (hence the name sweet tooth) and they act different. Those who have cooked chants will know that because of their water content, chanterelles often cook down to about 1/3 their original size, losing much of the moisture contained in the mushroom. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, actually absorb moisture while cooking and can soak up the tastes of the other ingredients in your dish, making them one of my favorite.

However, they are quite rare to find in large quantities. In the last five years, I have only located one patch, and it only produces about a pound or so when the weather conditions are right, so I never get my fill of them.

(Photos taken by Jon Rapp)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Smooth Chanterelles

Now is one of the best time to hit the woods if you are wanting to try out some chanterelles. The smooth chants are up and the patches are easy to spot because of the massive amounts of bright orange.

These chants are a good one for beginners because the underside has no gills or wrinkles. It is completely smooth underneath. There may be a hint of ridges or wrinkles on some of the larger ones, but because of this smooth feature there are no poisonous look-a-likes, making it one f the safest chanterelles to identify and eat. They are also out in abundance and if you find a nice patch, you can pick 2-3 pounds of them in only 10 minutes.

You will usually find a few larva tunnels in the stems and fleshier parts so be sure to trim these unless you want that extra protein. Always be sure to cook them thoroughly, eat them in moderation and avoid drinking alcoholic or at least limit alcohol to one glass as mixing alcohol and wild mushrooms has often led to some gastronomical distress.

One thing to consider when cooking smooth chanterelles is that these meaty mushrooms retain a lot of water. So avoid washing your finds if possible. If you do have to wash them, try to lay them out on towels and dry them thoroughly. Because they have so much water, chants will often reduce in size, ending up only about a third the size once cooked.

I have found smoooth chants in many places but the place I find the largest patches is in the small dry runoff valleys running down into small creeks. When you find a valey with some, walk both up and down it. Patches tend to be strung out along these drainage lines. At least that is the case in my area.

Happy hunting.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

You Never Know What You Are Going to Find

I went out today for an afternoon hunt to see if I could turn up some nice trumpets and chants and to do a little scouting in case anyone decides to join me for a foray on Thursday (this is where I plan to go)

Last week's flush of yellow chanterelles were largely spent. Lots of waterlogged and bug filled suckers. I did manage to pick a good half a pound or so of nice fresh bug free buttons, so new flushes are on.

My main target was black trumpets and I was not disappointed. Picked about a pound with some really nice and big ones to be found.

I find a lot of my trumpets as you can see from the photos growing out of moss. I think this is because they tend to grow in places where there is not a lot of leaf litter and most of these places are mossy. Some say they have a relationship with moss, but I don't think so. I have found large patches with no moss to be found. They are easier to spot in moss, so I will usually look for mossy spots first and then start looking closer for trumpets. Like morels, once you find one stop and look very close. There are bound to be a bunch more.

Most trumpets are small (2 inches high and maybe an inch or two across). But here are some photos to give you a give idea of the size they can get. Notice how smooth the underside is.

Even the cap or cup can get quite large.

After picking my fill of trumpets, I was walking along and saw this miserable looking cluster. It was a lighter colored brown compared to the trumpets I had been finding but I thought it was just an older group. I did wonder for a moment why they were so clustered. I have found clusters of black trumpets before but they were not tightly packed and seemed to grow in more ordered clusters.

When I got down to take this picture I soon realized that these were not trumpets at all. Notice the gray ridges on the underside. They also had a much more pungently fruity smell compared to trumpets.

Black trumpets, or the horn of plenty, are a form of Craterellus, specifically Craterellus cornucopioides, but they are completely smooth underneath or only slightly wrinkled. I believe this one to be Craterellus foetidus. It was neat find for me as I have never found anything but the horn of plenty.

While I was crawling around on my hands and knees in the moss looking for black trumpets and other black chants, I came across these very tiny black chanterelles. Sorry, it was hard to focus on such small specimens, but here is what I think is Craterellus calyculus

They are very small and although most suggest that they are edible, they are not worth collecting as the largest one picture here was about half the size of a dime. But it was neat to find a total of three different kinds of black chanterelles today. Bodes well for anyone wanting to go on a foray this week.

Anyone up for a Foray?

Well early scouting trips have begun to turn up some nice edibles in good numbers. In the past week I have found several edible lactarius, common yellow chanterelles, cinnabar red chanterells, and even a pound of black trumpets, also known as the horn of plenty. Been a few sighting of oysters and a lot of chicken are starting to roost. So I was thinking it maybe a good time to have a local foray for anyone who may be interested in learning more on how to properly identify some of these easy targets.

My schedule this week allows for a few options - Thursday (7/10) and Sunday (7/13) If you are available and interested in either of these dates contact me through the report a mushroom find link on the right side of the page near the top. Let me know which day you could go and general times when you are available to hunt those days. I will also email a few of you who had expressed an earlier interest.

Here are a few photos to get you in the mood:

Boone County black trumpets - found these at Three Creeks Conservation Area. Very fresh and in perfect shape. Most were just starting out and much smaller (photo by Jon Rapp)

Here is what I mean, there were a lot of tiny ones starting out. These were about the size of a match head. You have to be quick to get trumpets as they usually grow and dry up within 5 to 7 days. One of the most ephemeral of the summer edibles. (Three Creeks Conservation Area photo by Jon Rapp)

Here is a nice young, fresh chicken that was encountered and photographed by some friends of mine. They were nice enough to take a photo and share it with me. I found about a pound of chicken last week, but it was pouring rain so I could not take any photos. This one, like most I find around Mid-MO was the white-pored variety and was growing from buried wood. I have yet to find the yellow-pored species this year. I usually find it growing above ground off dead an living trees.