I do not live in a country of mushroom pickers. I used to though. Finns are enthusiastic mushrooms pickers and guard their patches fiercely. Once, I remember walking through the forest on Ruissalo (an island near Turku). There was a flash of red in the trees and, being a curious creature, I gingerly stepped through the pine trunks into the forest to investigate. After only a few steps an elderly couple popped out from a ditch beneath a blueberry bush and began laughing and talking to me in Finnish. I laughed too and responded “No niin”, i.e. “Ok/right/of course/whatever”. This was my general response to everything I didn’t understand in Finland (which was quite a lot) and it served me very well. :)
On returning home, I told a friend about these pensioners and how I suspected I had interrupted some kind of aged, woody tryst. My friend put me straight. This Gortex clad, greying couple were almost definitely not frolicking in the forest, they were mushroom picking. Ahhhhhh. The hiding? The secrecy? They simply had been trying to hide the fact that they’d found a cracking patch of edible fungi.
Along with the Eurovision Song Contest, Finns take their mushrooms seriously.
Coming from a country where mushroom picking is not very common at all I know nothing about wild mushrooms, and I always suspect that no-one else does too! Thus, when my Dad told me about the patch of chanterelles he had found in the woods near the village I come from (see photo) I was sceptical. Were they really chanterelles (or girolles, if you want to be cook-booky about it)? Would I really survive if I ate them?
We picked a bucketful and that night (after much Google-ing) I made a simple sauce with them – a little onion sweated in butter, chanterelles, parsley, wine and crème fraiche. It tasted great and, as an added bonus, I was alive the next morning when I woke up. Hurrah!
D can’t stand mushrooms so the chanterelles are all mine. Though I like them a lot, I couldn’t eat whole bucket. The fungi had to be preserved. How to do it was the question. I tried three different methods: oven-drying, sun-drying and freezing. Here are the results.
The Method: Place baking trays of chanterelles in a 60oC oven with the door slightly ajar for 10 hours (I did it over night).
Result: A funky smelling kitchen, for starters! The mushrooms shrivelled up unattractively but dried well and retained their taste exceptionally well.
Method: Place on a tray in direct sunlight for 3-7 days (depending on strength of sun).
Results: The chanterelles dried perfectly, were very tasty AND retained their beautiful shapes. My favourite method.
Method: Freeze chanterelles individually on a baking tray (to stop them sticking together) before bagging and storing in the freezer. Defrost before use.
Results: Chanterelles are a bit soggy and lose some of their taste but are still pretty damned good and can be used as a “fresh” ingredient.
Next time I pick a bucket full (which will be very soon) I’m going to sun-dry half and freeze half. My preferred methods.
The following salad used the frozen chanterelles and was absolutely amazing! Ate it with some grilled smoked salmon steaks.
Chanterelle and Rocket Salad
(for one, rough amounts)
Knob of butter
Half a clove of garlic, finely chopped
Handful of chanterelles
Palmful of fresh parsley, chopped
Handful of rocket
Handful of floppy lettuce
Dressing – lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning
- Gently fry chanterelles and garlic in the butter until chanterelles just start to brown. Add parsley and stir. Remove from heat.
- Toss salad leaves with dressing.
- Top with chanterelle mixture.
Excuse my absense for the next few days. I’m off to Belladrum music festival this weekend with my best friend, then D returns from snowboarding in NZ and, on top of all that, school starts on Monday! Phew.
PS The lovely Amanda from Figs Olives and Wine nominated me for a Rocking Girl Blogger Award. I’m chuffed to bits to receive it and she said some very very sweet things about my blog. An enormous thank you, Amanda!