I don’t mind telling you that I am rather impressed with the name that I’ve come up with for this preserve. And I think it deserves this quirky little flourish, for it is a wonderfully decorative preserve, and will brighten up any kitchen that has the good fortune of a wild and adventurous cook at its helm. I have tried a few recipes for pickled mushrooms, but by far my favourite is John Wright’s method in his absolute classic, Mushrooms (2007), and the method below is based on his. You can use any mushroom or mix of mushroom you like for this recipe (so long as they’re not poisonous), but you may have to come up with another name if not using Blewits.
- Wood Blewits (or any other edible mushroom, really. Whole, small and firm ones work best, but there’s nothing to stop you experimenting with all different shapes and sizes.)
- Fine sea salt
- White wine or clear cider vinegar
- Extra virgin olive oil (You will need quite a lot, so don’t use a very expensive one. Having said that, the oil will be recyclable as a pleasingly pungent dressing for salads.)
- Optional extras: Whole spices such as peppercorns or coriander seeds, peeled garlic cloves, whole chillies, bay leaves
Note: I give no quantities here as you will be judging everything by eye. Now, don’t let this worry you – it’s just that this a very forgiving recipe.
- Scrupulously clean your mushrooms and trim off any bits that look at all dubious.
- In a non-metalic container, such as a dish or plastic tub, cover all surface areas of your mushrooms with the salt. What you’re aiming for is a thorough sprinkling, rather than a complete burial. Leave for one hour (or longer if you are using whole large mushrooms such as Ceps).
- The salt will have drawn out a surprising amount of liquid from the mushrooms, and the bottom of your container should now have accumulated a pool of mushroomy brine. Pour this away.
- Cover the mushrooms in salt once more, leave for another hour, then pour away any more liquid that has been drawn out.
- In a saucepan, bring enough vinegar to cover the mushrooms to a simmer. Meanwhile, rinse the mushrooms of any excess salt under a cold tap. This needs to be done quickly so as the mushrooms do not reabsorb any water.
- Plunge the mushrooms in the vinegar and simmer gently for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and leave for at least two hours. (Larger mushrooms will need to be left for longer. John Wright writes that they can be left like this for anything up to twenty-four hours, but, although they will keep longer, they will be unpalatably vinegary when the time comes to eat them. My suggestion would be that if you are just making enough for a jar or two using small mushrooms such as Wood Blewits, then two hours in the vinegar is ample.)
- Strain your mushrooms and pack them into sterilized jars (see below). At this point you can add any or all of the optional extras from the ingredients list above.
- Cover the mushrooms in the oil, tapping and shaking the jar as you go to ensure you leave no air pockets anywhere in the jar. Seal tightly and you’re done. They will keep for at least six months, but probably longer.
Pickled Mushrooms are great on the side of almost any salad, and I’ll be saving my Pickwits for a Forager’s Spring Green Salad sometime probably in late April or May (keep watching this blog to find out exactly what I do). Alternatively, and surprisingly I think, I have found that Pickled Mushrooms are excellent on cheese on toast and pizzas. Just lay a few on before you cook – the mild vinegariness is a tongue-tantalizingly sharp contrast to the creaminess of the melted cheese.
The way I do this is to completely submerge the jars for a couple of hours in a solution of water and sterilizing tablets that you can pick up very cheaply from the chemist. I then dry them in a very low oven (gas mark ½) for about half an hour. Fill the jars when they are still hot.