It’s been unremittingly cold and rainy, which is terrible for just about everything except the oyster mushrooms. While I only found a handful of morels this weekend, I found probably 20 pounds of oysters — the small and tender ones I sauteed in lots of butter, some garlic, thyme and a little alleppo pepper, then finished with some wine and cream. Then I froze them in batches. Although they are pretty delicious, even a piggy girl like me couldn’t eat all those mushrooms in cream at one time. I also have to say that cooking with real, unpasteurized cream that does not contain any additives like carageenen is a revelatory experience. A cream sauce made with this magical substance does not get gummy, but rather, unctuous.
So, mushrooms in cream sauce aside, I had a number of enormous oyster mushrooms to deal with — the big ones tend to get woody, and I don’t love them sauteed. Last year, my beloved stepmother gave me The Complete Mushroom Book, which is where I got this recipe. You clean and slice the mushrooms, then boil them for 8 minutes in salted water. Meanwhile, you make a brine from vinegar, an onion quartered, some garlic, thyme, bay leaves, a little salt and I threw in a dried hot pepper from last summer’s garden. You simmer that for 15 minutes. When the mushrooms have cooked, you drain them, add them to the brine, and cook for another 5 minutes. Then pack into sterilized jars.
The original recipe says you can store them just like that, but I also processed them in a hot water bath for about 15 minutes (we lost the power part way through, so it might have been a little longer). They’re pretty vinegary, so they taste best when you take them out of the brine, and let them marinate in some nice olive oil for a little while before serving.
I did a batch last spring as an experiment, and I liked them so well that I was thrilled to find so many ginormous oyster mushrooms this spring. They’re delicious, and a little odd, and sort of out of the ordinary. Good hostess presents (for people who aren’t freaked out by wild mushrooms).