29 June 2011

Wacky weather brings on the Porcini

Photo by Robert Alexander
Weather is always a major source of speculation and conversation the world around. We never have a shortage of that around here. This has been another odd year weather wise, and so we find ourselves discussing it's oddness in terms of our beloved mushroom or more to the point, porcino season. Our hills are famous for their porcini or boletus edulis, to be specific. There are a host of other varieties around as well, like the ones you find before the porcini arrive and the ones that arrive signaling the end of the porcini season. Well, that is usually how it is during the autumn season. Spring time season usually is a brief affair, with the only porcino you find is what they here call the "white" variety, which if I am not mistaken I think it is the boletus variipes. The autumn season boasts the "moro or black" varieties, boletus edulis and a host of other variety of edible and ones that are oh so pretty, but oh so deadly. So, best to know what you are doing. Here you can go into any of the hospitals and they will identify or at the very least let you know if it is edible or not. If you buy them from along side of the road or in the market, most vendors usually have a tag on the crate verifying that the mushrooms have been inspected and are edible. We have a vendor in our little village not too far from the bottom of our road who collects all the mushrooms form the hunter and gathers of the area and ships them off to Torino every night during the season. Like I said before autumn is usually when the big mushroom action happens, but this year were going through the full autumn season now. It will be interesting to see how it plays out this autumn. Will we have a second season, or will this be the whole season and when it finishes its over for the year? 
Egle and her treasures
These are the burning questions that are bantered around our house, the home of the mildly crazy, ok, maybe down right, mad for mushrooms,  hunters and gatherers that I call my in laws and husband respectively.  
My husband sporting the latest in mushroom hunting attire
We eat wild mushrooms in quite a variety of ways, big slabs fried in bread crumbs, in risotto, with pasta, 
wild game stews, rustic tarts and the list continues on and on. To preserve them we either stick them in the freezer whole in ziplock bags, or saute them up with a little onion, garlic and parsley and freeze them in small batches for risotto and such. Very handy. We also dry them.
Drying porcini

My mother in laws specialty is preparing them for putting in jars either under oil or vinegar. They really are pretty that way and a most welcome gift for their friends. My in laws are still the type to give these types of gifts to their doctors or dentist or other types of professionals they deal with. I am known to bring along a loaf or two of my home made bread. Most people get very excited when they receive one of Egle's special jars of precious cargo. I do too, especially if it is under oil. I am not so wild about then in vinegar. It tends to overpower the mushrooms for my taste buds. 
Assorted Porcini and a few chanterelles
Porcini and other mushrooms under oil or vinegar.
Porcini under oil

It's not a difficult process, just time consuming. First and foremost you have to find the mushrooms, which can eat up some time, but at least you're out in the woods.
porcini "gold"

Then you need to thoroughly clean and wash them.
Porcini and chanterelles
What you need.
Sterilized jars and lids (usually water bathed for 20 minutes to sterilize)
You won't need them for a couple of days until after you prepare your mushrooms  

white wine vinegar
or olive oil, 
some bay leaves, one or two per jar (we have fresh ones available to us from nearby trees)
a few whole cloves, 1-2 per jar
Cleaned, dried  and ready to put in jars

After you have cleaned them, cut them into large chunks, maybe about 2 inches. 
They are then blanched for several minutes in a combination of water and vinegar, just to kill any bacterial on the outsides of the mushrooms. 
Dry them off and lay on  towels in a a spot to dry with a bit of wind if possible but out of direct sun. 
Leave to dry a day or two till they have released any liquid and are dry. 
Pack snugly and decoratively in your sterilized jars. 
Fill the jars with either oil or vinegar and  screw shut. 

Disclaimer!!!!! This is the way mountain and country people have been preserving their mushrooms for years. I know that you need to water bath the jars to insure a seal on the jar and to conform to food safety  recommendations. This is not a recipe to follow. I do not claim that this is fool proof. This is how my mother in law has been doing it for years with good results. She has a lot of experience and knows what she is doing. I wouldn't recommend this for everyone to try at home. I merely wanted to share the process of this specialty of our area. 
Porcini under vinegar and oil


bellini said...

To know where to find these jewels is the question, and the knowledge to know what you can and can't eat.

Bella Baita View said...

Ah yes, but we can help with that. ;-)

Fern Driscoll said...

What a snappy hunter your husband is! And it looks like he is a successful hunter as well, which is much more important than being merely dapper. I'm going to try your m-i-l's technique for preserving mushrooms. We had an old friend who used to give us bottled mushrooms of his own production, but he died. I'd like to try it, in his honor if nothing else. It'll be interesting to see if there's a second season this year - the weather's been a caution, that's for sure.

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