Thursday, July 12, 2007

magnificant mushroom

In my spare time I like to sneak off into the woods and eat what I find there. Sometimes you hit the jackpot, like the other day when I got a hot tip on a cool fungus (we foragers know how to network). Michael and I drove off in search of White Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus Cincinnatus), a delicious edible mushroom with no poisonous look-alikes. It's rare in some parts of the country, but apparently not in PA. As you can see, this is a large bracket fungus (the man's watch is for scale), and there was another of equal size on the other side of the tree. (N.B. I only took half of this piece, leaving 3/4 of the fungus behind for fellow afficionados. Being greedy is bad juju.)

Chicken of the Woods grow mostly on oaks, and White Chicken of the Woods tend to grow at the base of trees. I don't think it really tastes like chicken, but it kind of looks like it when it's cut up in the pan and the texture is similar.

This was such a bountiful harvest I had to scramble to figure out what to do with it all. I froze some and I dried some. (It's an experiment to see which method better preserves the mushroom-y goodness.) We had some in an our eggs and some for supper stir fried with just-picked scallions, zucchini, and feta, over porcini and cheese stuffed torteloni. And then I used the rest to make what our grandmothers would have called "mushroom catsup." (I find lots of old recipes for odd catsups (walnut catsup, cherry catsup); I think it just means a sauce that includes vinegar and sugar and is used like a chutney with meat.) So now I've got 3 half pints of mushroom catsup waiting to grace a delicious steak or pork chop or pasta dish.

In any case I must be patient. Pickles, relishes, and chutneys taste better if they sit for about 4 weeks. Time allows the tastes of the vinegar, sugar, and spices to develop and blend. So I won't know till next month if this sauce is worthy of my last 4 cups of Chicken of the Woods. Which gives me plenty of time to think of ways to use my catsup...maybe I'll stuff some filo dough and make little mushroom pitas...or put a spoonful on a cracker topped with a few shreds of cheese...


At July 13, 2007 at 4:10 PM , Blogger Domino Bianchi said...

That is incredible. Nice find! Will be looking forward to your followup on which method of storage was better!

At July 13, 2007 at 6:17 PM , Blogger molly said...

NoWAY! That is awesome! I want that in our basket of goodies next year!


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