When I buy (organic, fancy) dried mushrooms in the store, I always kick myself. I can hear the 500-yard glare of a chef from almost 20 years ago, telling me: that’s what you Americans do. Spend, spend, spend all the money you have for something you could make yourself. I roll my eyes and hope he doesn’t see me, toss the bag guiltily into my cart and skulk away.
You can do this yourself at home, you know. It’s stupid. It’s easy. It works. It’s good for you. It’s karmically good for other stuff. The real struggle for me is, honestly, I often can’t be arsed to do the stupidest, easiest things.
But I did yesterday, and I have some thoughts about it, and they weren’t what I expected. Here’s the recipe. Meditations on preservation follow.
- 1/2 lb. mushrooms, brushed clean, trimmed and thinly sliced (stems and all, as long as they’re in good shape) tossed with
- a pinch of sea salt (this will help draw moisture out
Preheat your oven to 170 F., or its lowest setting. Scatter the mushrooms on a sheetpan, leaving plenty of room between pieces (don’t pile them up, or they’ll steam more than they’ll dry). Bake for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally. I blotted mine a few times with a towel, this may or may not help at all. They should be very dry: check the larger pieces by pinching between your nails. There should be no moisture left in it. Let cool completely, ideally overnight, and then seal in an airtight container and use within a week.
Alternately, you can put this on a rack in a food dehydrator and let it go for about the same length of time. I was less impressed by the flavor of these, because they did not get the additional benefit of the slow-roast I got in the oven, but they were completely dried, as in, could crumble into powder with a touch.
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The home made dried mushrooms work fine. They’re just fine. But after so many hours of dehydrating them, and waiting on them, checking on them, stirring them, whispering encouraging things to them, and generally fussing way too much over something that should be stupid easy, I was questioning my sanity, and my asessment of what was “easy”, anyway.
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And then, I rehydrated them. Because after all, that was what my recipe called for: an ounce of rehydrated mushrooms. And you know what? That’s bogus. I should have just purchased a damned bag of dried mushrooms.
Perhaps I could have socked them away for a very long time, and delightedlly discovered them on a cold winter night when stew was on the stovetop and some mysterious umami flavor was needed. In days of yore, I could have saved my village from the brink of starvation with my small bit of ingenious labor. Or, I could have bravely dealt with an overwhelming deluge of mushrooms dropped mysteriously at my doorstep (if you would like to do this, PLEASE GO AHEAD). I could have gone another step and pureed them, turning them into a fairly small amount of really tasty seasoning. But none of these things were really needed yesterday, and I have to say, the bag of dried mushrooms from the store are WAY tasty, SUPER dry, and INCREDIBLY convenient. Half a pound of fresh mushrooms cost approximately half what the dried cost, but honestly, I personally couldn’t justify doing it as a regular habit.
I might be a terrible person. O, well.