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Pickled Tarragon Mushrooms and Shallots

October 30, 2014

Pickling mushrooms with tarragon and shallots is a simple way to both preserve and transform them into a sophisticated addition to appetizers and tapas platters.

It's fall on the west coast, and with enough rain (and then some!) falling on my beautiful island, mushroom season has officially begun. Once again, my friends shared their foraging hikes with me, and I recently spent a happy afternoon in the rainforest hunting White and Golden Chanterelle mushrooms on the slopes of Mount Arrowsmith. Coming home with 12.5 pounds of fresh, wild mushrooms is as awesome as it daunting, and the perfect time to try a few new preservation techniques to keep Chanterelles on our table all winter long. My friends and I decided to sort through our piles and set aside all the baby mushrooms for pickling.

 

Pickled mushrooms are a European staple in many countries for tapas and antipasto platters, as the pickling process preserves the texture and flavour of the mushrooms. I decided to use white wine vinegar, shallots and tarragon for my pickling to add a little gourmet twist to a classic idea, while accentuating the mushroomy-ness rather than overpowering it. The 'Dry Saute' method used to prepare the mushrooms for pickling helps preserve their shape, enhances their natural flavour and dehydrates them enough to soak up the herb-scented vinegar.

Notes on Mushroom Canning Techniques
There are different schools of thought on canning mushrooms using a water bath canner versus a pressure canner. As this recipe calls for the mushrooms to be cooked, packed and pickled in vinegar (rather than water or oil), it raises their acidity to a safe level for canning and preserving in a water bath canning pot, the technique called for below. That being said, it is important to be an informed home canner when deciding how to preserve foods, and you should educate yourself and feel comfortable with the method you use.

Choosing Mushrooms & Shallots for Pickling
I used baby golden Chanterelles in my preparation of this recipe, but any firm, nicely-shaped mushroom will work well. Small Crimini mushrooms are another great option that are available in most North American grocery stores. Choose fresh whole mushrooms with no blemishes or soft spots. The smaller 'schroom the better in this case, as you'll be keeping them whole and they need to fit into the jars. The same goes for the shallots, choose smaller fat ones that you will be slicing into tiny decorative rings to be served alongside your pickled mushrooms.

Your mushrooms need to be very clean when you begin this recipe, so brush them well to remove all debris. Wash only if necessary and do it quickly (as mushrooms soak up water during washing), then set on a tea towel to air dry a few minutes before sauteing.

A note on wild mushrooms - foraging wild mushrooms is a rewarding envour, but must be done by experienced pickers who know the area and the subtle differences between edible and dangerous mushrooms. Find a professional who can teach you the ways to safely forage in your area, or buy freshly grown mushrooms from your local market or grocery store.

 

Tarragon Pickled Mushrooms & Shallots

Ingredients

1.5 pounds of small fresh mushrooms, cleaned and left whole

4 shallots

2.5 cups white wine vinegar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons pickling or kosher salt

4 sprigs of fresh tarragon

Canning Equipment - ten small-sized 125 ml glass jars or five 250 ml medium/small sized jars, a canning funnel, slotted spoon, and water bath canning pot. Exact number of jars needed will vary slightly depending on the size of mushrooms after being dry sauteed.

Begin by filling your water bath canner and heating the water to a simmer on a back burner of your stove (you'll need the front for sauteing). Sterilize your jars and keep them hot, and get lids soaking in a bowl of hot water. Move all canning stuff aside for now.

Heat a large frying pan to medium, and begin dry sauteing the mushrooms in batches (no oil, just using the heat from the hot pan), flip them over from time to time. Saute each batch until the mushrooms soften and have released most of their moisture.

While mushrooms are sauteing, cut each of the tarragon springs into several pieces, as you'll be adding one piece to each jar when canning for decoration and extra flavour. Remove the skins from the shallots and slice into tiny, thin rings.

Combine the white wine vinegar, salt, sugar and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the mushrooms, shallots and tarragon and bring to a boil again, then reduce heat to a simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Get your hot, sterilized jars ready on the counter. Using a slotted spoon and canning funnel, fill the jars with the mushrooms and shallots. Add a sprig of the tarragon from the cooking liquid to each jar if desired.

Ladle the hot vinegar brine into each jar of mushrooms, leaving a half-inch of head space. If you don't have quite enough liquid to fill the jars to the right spot, top them up with a little extra white wine vinegar. Remove any air bubbles that might be hiding under your mushrooms.

Wipe off the edges of the jars, clean edges makes a strong, safe seal on your cans. Add the lids and tighten rings, then lower your cans into the pre-heated water bath canner and bring to a boil.

Boil the jars for the allotted time depending on size: 10 minutes for 125 ml size and 15 minutes for 250 ml size jars.

Remove from the canning pot and set to cool on a tea towel. Check lids to ensure they have all sealed tightly. Store in a dark, cool cupboard or pantry.

Pop open a jar whenever a mushroom craving hits and devour.

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