15 January 2005
One of the good things, one of the many good things about living in Newcastle, where I do: I can stroll down to the market and come home with five or six pounds of clean white button mushrooms for a quid. Other places, you can pay forty pence for a quarter-pound; you do the arithmetic [at one hundred pence to the quid, if my units are confusing].
At that price, you can pickle ’em, bottle ’em, make soup with ’em and still have enough to give away. One of the things I like to do is dry ’em. You don’t need to buy industrial quantities for this, it’s worthwhile at any level (and buying cheap is only worth it when you’re buying good fresh ingredients at bargain prices; don’t go for the knock-down shrooms when they’re going black and losing texture. Those are fine to cook with, they have better flavour, but don’t try to preserve them by any method).
Simply brush off any dirt, and then lay the mushrooms out on a sheet of newspaper in a warm dry place. Make sure each one is separate, none touching. Then leave them for a couple of weeks while they shrivel and toughen up. Discard any that develop unhealthy-looking habits (moulds, rotting, etc).
Once they’re thoroughly dry, store them in an airtight container and use at will. I usually keep a jar beside the stove, and throw a handful into any sauce or soup or stew that would benefit from a deeper, darker, richer flavour, that hint of oaky forests and leaf-mould in the rain.
© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.