Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mushroom Rescue Project

Hey there!

I don't know about y'all, but mushrooms are one of my favourite foods, but they're also one the most frustrating. Why? Well, when dealing with your regular variety white or brown (cremini), it's the shelf life. When I buy the regular 227 gram/8 ounce packages of mushrooms, I rarely get the chance to use them all before they shrivel up and go off. 

So, as with all vegetables, I figured the best way to preserve them before they die was to get my pickle on! Now, in my previous pickling endeavours, I combined sweet and salty and sour, but in this case, I couldn't imagine that the bright, sugary pickling liquids that sing with beets and peppers would work with the earthiness of mushrooms. 

What I really wanted to do was impart some of the complimentary meatiness that mushrooms usually get with being paired with or topping a steak, but somehow in pickle form. So, my first ingredient would be steak spice of course! Luckily, we have some of the best, thanks to our last trip to Schwartz's.

Secret ingredient!!

Now, whilst most pickling is simply based on pouring a boiling brine over veggies, with mushrooms you want to add an extra layer of flavour by marinating them in an oil mixture, as follows:

Mushroom Marinade

- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 pinch chili pepper flakes.

Pour this over the mushrooms and toss. Let the mushrooms marinate for at least an hour and transfer to mason jars.

Next comes the pickling brine. Now, I really wanted to use tarragon vinegar as the vinegar base for the pickling liquid, but we had run out, so I basically used a mix of four kinds of vinegar, which had some effect on the flavour but was, or the most part, unnecessary (I'll cover that in the recipe). The main reason for the unnecessity was that I threw in a whack of other flavours, most namely tarragon. So, I basically remade the missing ingredient!

Tarragon-Juniper Pickling Brine


- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar (probably unnecessary - it didn't really change the flavour)
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (again, probably unnecessary)
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp dried juniper berries, cracked (or more accurately, smooshed?)
- 1 tbsp Schwartz's steak spice
- 1 tbsp pickling spice (a prepackaged combo of  allspice, coriander seeds, cinnamon pieces, cloves, mustard seeds, and peppercorns)
- 2 tbsp dried tarragon leaves (I used a little too much again, about 3-4 tbsps, so keep it to 2)

Important note: There is no sugar in this recipe as opposed to most other pickling recipes since mushrooms and sweet really don't go together.

Maybe a smidge too much tarragon...

- Mix all ingredients together in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
- Pour over mushrooms and let cool until lukewarm before refrigerating. You'll want to leave them in the fridge until cold as this will help them firm up.
- These will keep for about a month in the fridge before starting to soften. 

End result? Well, these aren't quite the same as the marinated mushrooms you buy at the Italian grocers. For one thing, I think I used about 10 times as much vinegar as they do. So, the bite, while being delicious, does lead to a sour-faced tarantella of vinegar overload. So, these are a "use sparingly" kind of pickle. that being said, the 4-months-pregnant lady sure liked 'em!

Next time, I'll use more oil, less pickling liquid and see how it goes. For now when serving, to counter the vinegar, I drizzle some olive oil over whatever bowl the 'shrooms are in.

And that is that! Maybe a partially failed experiment, but at least I didn't waste any food!


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