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Pickled Mushrooms

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pickled mushrooms are traditional to Russian cuisine, especially as a winter treat. They could be used in salads, pies, as a side dish, as is, and  as a perfect zakuska (snack) for vodka. There are several methods to prepare pickled mushrooms, but two main ways are marinated and salted. Marinated mushrooms are prepared with salt and vinegar(and sometimes with sugar), whereas salted, as you can guess, just with salt. Spices may vary, but mostly used are garlic, dill, bay leaf, and black pepper corns.

There are many places in Massachusetts to pick wild mushrooms. We made long trips to Cape Cod in Mass and White Mountains in New Hampshire, but after shaking in the trunk for 2+ hours our mushroom "catch" was in bad shape. To our delight, a couple of years ago we discovered mushrooms in a nearby forest, and since then we pick mushrooms there, mostly for pickling. "Mushrooming", as people from Russian community here call the process of picking mushrooms, is an  incredibly interesting and even exciting forest game. Yes, my friends, I consider it a game, a game of searching, sniffing and chasing with a reward in the end, when you finally find what you were looking for. But please-please-please do not endeavour this activity if you don't know mushrooms! Actually, there are no deadly poisonous mushrooms except one Amanita Phalloides commonly known as death cap(blednaya poganka in Russian), but there are other species that may be bad for you and cause a terrible stomach upset that will send you to the toilet more frequently than you can imagine. Best way is to go on a mushrooming tour with an expert, then buy a good book with pictures and pick up safe varieties, such as porcini (bely grib) or chanterelle (lisichka).  Interestingly, some varieties that are considered poisonous in the US, are commercially harvested and preserved in Scandinavian countries. Go figure.
Short-stalk White Russula
In Siberia we used to salt mushrooms in wooden barrels and enamelled buckets, it was a refreshing fermented winter food. My mother also prepared lots of marinated  honey mushrooms (opionki or opiata). During long and frosty winter, boiled potatoes and salted mushrooms with sour cream made a decent supper. During winter holiday season pickled and salted mushrooms could be found in many festive dishes.

Emetic Russula
In today's recipe I used Short-stalked White Russula(sukhoy gruzhd') that I pre-soaked in cold water for a few hours,   and some Emetic Russula (syroezhka, the red one)varieties of wild mushrooms, and the way they are prepared is called hot method for salted mushrooms (there is also a method to salt raw mushrooms). Mushrooms are boiled first, then covered with salted and spiced marinade. You can boil wild mushrooms twice, to be on the safe side (so I did!). If wild mushrooms scare you to death, you can use other mushrooms sold in grocery stores, like button mushrooms, babybella, etc.

What you need:
About 3 lb fresh mushrooms
2 tbsp salt  per 1 l water for marinade
Water and salt for boiling
5-6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped or sliced
Spices: bay leaf, dill, black pepper corns.
Also: cleaned/disinfected pickling jars with lids.

This is my first jar 2010!

Clean mushrooms in cold water. If they are big, cut them in two or four wedges. Cover with cold water, add some salt and boil on medium heat for about 30 minutes.
While mushrooms are boiling, prepare marinade: in a sauce pan mix 1 l filtered water, 2 tbsp salt, add pepper corns and bay leaf, bring to boil, then turn off the heat, and let it stand for some time until mushrooms are ready.
After 30 minutes, drain water, rinse mushrooms with cold water, then with boiling water. Arrange dill and part of garlic on the bottom of a jar, then go by layers: mushrooms (put them lower side up and rather tightly), dill, garlic, and so on, until you reach the top. I put dill only on the top and bottom. Warm up the marinade almost to boiling, pour on  mushrooms until covered, place loosely the lid on, and let it cool at room temperature. Close the lid tightly, and put in the fridge. In a week they are ready to eat.

If you take effort to disinfect your jars, these mushrooms can stand in your fridge for quite a while, a few months and more. To disinfect jars, first wash them thoroughly with baking soda, rinse well, and keep in the 230F oven for about 35 minutes to an hour. The lids must be boiled for about 5 minutes. 
I didn't specify the number of jars, because different mushrooms shrink differently while boiling, so adjust quantities on the go. There is always some extent of improvisation and uncertainty while pickling.
If you want your mushrooms marinated, add some white vinegar to the marinade, also cloves are traditionally added (just a few). How much vinegar to put is a matter of taste, I personally prefer the minimum amounts.
Another way to make marinated mushrooms: fish out salted mushrooms that you plan to eat, slice them, add some vinegar to taste, and let them stand for about 30 minutes in the fridge. Then improvise and add some chopped dill, parsley, onion, oil or sour cream to it, and enjoy a simple but unusual salad, I would call it A Taste of Siberia. :)

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