Before we get started, I have to warn you: this is one of those recipes. We’ve all encountered them before and you know their type…The ones that everyone will tell you “that’s not how my Grandma made them,” or “my family makes them very differently.” Yup, I’m going there, and it’s not going to be the last time.
Polish recipes for pickling are many and varied. Quite often there are regional and familial differences. In the 1989 version of “The Art of Polish Cooking,” for example, author Alina Zeranska calls for exactly 15 whole black peppercorns for her pickled mushrooms—no more, no less. The differences between recipes don’t end there: any number of other ingredients are added, subtracted or vary in amounts. In the end, I guess it all really depends on your personal tastes and how well you were paying attention when your elders were in the kitchen pickling away.
So to try and bypass the inevitable sneers and complaints, I’d like to offer the recipe below more as a blank canvas for you to play with than as a complete package unto itself. I urge you to try the recipe as written the first time around, especially if you’ve never pickled mushrooms before. After that I implore you to let yourself go. Get crazy and add some other ingredients into the mix, improvise and find your own special mix of flavors.
Once you get the hang of it, you can take things up a notch or two by throwing in any of the following:
- A sprig of fresh dill
- A piece of horseradish root
- An oak leaf
- Pink peppercorns
- A garlic clove or two
- Coriander seeds
- Mustard seeds
- A small, hot pepper or pepper flakes
And the fun doesn’t end there! While pickled mushrooms are wonderful to snack on all on their own, they’re also a workhorse pantry ingredient. Try chopping them up and putting them on toasted bread with or without a smear of goat cheese, throw a few onto a bowl of Ramen or Congee, or try one in your next Gin Martini.
Pickled Wild Mushrooms
PREP TIME: 30 MINUTES ● MAKES 1 QUART
- 1 widemouth quart canning jar
for the mushrooms
- 1 pound mushrooms
- 2-3 cups water
- 1 tablespoon salt
to prep the mushrooms
- Thoroughly clean your mushrooms. If they are a larger variety they may need to be chopped into more manageable sized pieces.
- Clean and sterilize your canning jar, lid and ring.
- In a saucepan large enough to accommodate your mushrooms, pour in 2-3 cups of water and bring to a full boil. Add the tablespoon of salt and stir to ensure that it is completely dissolved.
- Add your cleaned and/or chopped mushrooms and boil them for 1-3 minutes.
- Remove the mushrooms from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place them in the canning jar. Move along and make the brine.
to make the brine
- In a saucepan over high heat, bring the water, California Bay Laurel leaves and whole black peppercorns to a boil.
- Add the 2 tablespoons of salt, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of vinegar. Stir continuously until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved.
In case its not obvious, not all wild mushrooms are created equally. I used a pound of freshly foraged, wild Yellowfoot Chanterelles. They are typically a thin and delicate mushroom, so I only had a slight bit of trimming and cleaning to do to them before getting started. However, many other types of mushrooms can be pickled. Golden Chanterelles and Hedgehogs are wonderfully “meaty” mushrooms that play well in this recipe, too. However, in many Polish households various types of Boletes are usually prepared in this fashion. Slippery Jacks (aka, Suillus luteus) are a popular choice and are actually great when pickled. However, Slippery Jacks and a few other Boletes will need some additional prep work which would include peeling the top layer off of each cap. You should always research your particular mushroom of choice before proceeding to see if there are any peculiar steps required to clean and prep them prior to pickling.