I know that the serious mushroom hunters find 'shrooms all year round, and many are lucky enough to find the spring varieties - St George's mushroom, dryad's saddle, morels - but I've yet to find any of those (apart from the one I found growing in the store room), so mushroom season for me starts late summer/early autumn. From a couple of online groups, I knew that they're coming up early this year, so I've been on the lookout for a week or so. Yesterday, George came out for a look with me, and...
... the greencracked brittlegills are up! I see from a previous post that these were up in late August a couple of years ago, so they really are early this year.
It's just possible to see the green dusting on the side of the mushroom in this picture. I tried to point it out to George, but he wasn't paying attention.
These are very mild tasting mushrooms. Fried in butter, they're very nice; they taste of butter. They're useful for padding out stews and suchlike, but there's a limit to how much almost-tasteless mushroom I have a use for, and they do come up in huge quantities. However, I had an idea.
I had great success pickling oyster mushrooms last year, following John Wright's instructions. I added some herbs - rosemary and bay - and the result was delicious. I wondered whether the very mild brittlegills might take on some herbal flavours with similar results.
The procedure starts with cleaning, chopping, and salting the mushrooms.
The purpose of this is to draw out some of the moisture. As it happens, this variety is very dry, so almost no moisture came off, so I'm not sure this part was really necessary, but I didn't feel like cutting corners this time. I duly salted, left for a couple of hours, drained off the non-existent liquid, salted and left again, drained (there was a little this time) again, before rinsing quickly to wash off the salt.
The next stage is to boil the mushrooms for a couple of minutes in vinegar, then leave them in the vinegar for a couple more hours. After this they can be bottled, but first I rolled them in chopped herbs - wild garlic (previously frozen in oil), lemon balm and thyme - before putting them in the jar and covering in olive oil. John Wright doesn't include the next step, but I did heat the jar in a cool oven (everything was pretty warm to start with) so that it would form a vacuum to seal it.
I'll leave these a while for the flavour of the herbs to infuse, then let you know how they turn out. As a bonus, the vinegar is converted into a delicious stock* as it has swapped some of its acidity for mushroom flavour. Similarly, when the pickled mushrooms are gone, the oil has taken on mushroom and herbal flavours.---
* I'm not sure that's quite the right word, but it's a savoury liquid that's a good basis for sauces