Pickled Wild Mushrooms (Chicken of the Woods)
Here we have Laetiporus cincinnatus (a species of wild chicken of the woods). This is such an amazing mushroom. It’s gorgeous, incredibly nutritious, and best yet…tastes just like chicken. I’ll get into the nutrition side in another post as well as proper identification. Right now let’s talk about how freaking huge these things can be. Seriously, 8-15 lbs of mushrooms at one time is no laughing matter…well, maybe. Like hysterically laughing with glee or something like that is completely acceptable. Drawback…what do you do with that much mushroom?
Well, there’s the obvious first answer…share that chicken. If you’re a frugal family like us though or another broke joke like the rest of us then you may want to consider ‘putting it back’. You can dry it but it just doesn’t do it justice. You could freeze it temporarily but make sure you have room in the freezer for deer. My favorite is pickled. It’s fairly quick, incredibly tasty and will be a special treat when you are dreaming of warmer weather. It is great eaten with salads, as a side dish, appetizer, garnish or just sneak a bite out of the jar before bed for some fun dreams.
I first tried pickled chicken of the woods over 15 years ago. A friend from up north had his mother send him a jar of pickled chicken of the woods. I was hesitant at the time but gave it a try and was dumbfounded by how good it was. This began my love with this chicken and ways to prepare and preserve it. I scoured the internet for years searching for a recipe that looked similar to what I had tasted but never could find it. Finally decided it was time to start experimenting. I’ve settled for now on this one and am very please with the flavor, texture, and ease of it all. Give a whirl and let me know what you think!! In fact, make this then make it again using your favorite herb blends and post to share here in the comments!
First, I feel the need to remind you…or inform you…that mushrooms are a low acid food. SO don’t skimp on the ingredients that preserve it, specifically the vinegar. I added sugar for a sweeter pickle (nearly bread and butter style but more tangy) and it also helps preserve it. There are recipes on the internet I have seen that look yummy EXCEPT for the fact that it is obviously lower acid and therefore will have a very limited shelf life. Be safe.
I pulled out old trusty Blue Ball Book of Preserving to peruse the brines and refresh myself on acids, sugars, salts when it comes to preserving. You could do a ‘fresh pack’ pickle with these mushrooms but I do prefer to boil, dump/strain, and bring to boil in brine. This does two things, the first is explained below. The second is that hot packing vs. cold packing means you can enjoy it faster. Some vegetables I refuse to hot pack as I don’t want to kill part of the nutritional goodness but with these yummies why wait? Here’s where I was left happy and hungry.
Before I get into the recipe I do need to let you know that a small portion of the population can be sensitive to chicken of the woods…well any mushroom really. I have heard of some people experiencing GI issues but it may be because they just ate so much because it’s so good. As with ANY mushroom, make sure when you eat them to cook them thoroughly, even conventional button mushrooms should never be eaten raw. If you tend to have issues digesting mushrooms then I’d recommend to boil and dump the water twice from these mushrooms to help aid in digestion. You can just cook them in the brine and let the acid do it’s thing but nothing wrong in taking precautions in case you decide to share with someone who may be more sensitive than yourself. Boiling twice adds about 20 minutes to the process….your call if you go that way or not. With that said in our home we boil once unless it is with someone we are introducing
Onward ho. Now go wash and sanitize your jars to get ready for this goodness!
Ingredients- makes roughly 8 pints
9 cups apple cider vinegar
6 cups distilled water
2 cup canning salt
1 cup sugar (we use unrefined)
5-6 lb +/- chicken of the wood or other wild edible mushrooms
4 TBSP mustard seed
2 TBSP celery seed
fresh thyme (1-3 per jar)
2 large onions
First clean your massive mushroom. You need to take your time doing this as you will inevitably find all kinds of things in it that you probably won’t want to find over dinner. Pull or chop the mushroom meat as you go. This will also help you to find all the bugs, grass, twigs, etc that may be embedded or inhabiting your chicken. You can, in fact, pull it raw like you would cooked chicken.
Wash it all. Wash it good. You did get those twigs out right?
If you opt to boil your chicken prior to pickling do so now.
Now add the apple cider vinegar, distilled water, canning salt and sugar in a pot to begin your brine. Once the salt and sugar has dissolved then add your herbs (not the thyme, hold that for later). Let that cook for a minute then add your onions and mushrooms.
Let that cook for 10 minutes or so.
Pack your sterilized jars with the mushroom mix and fill with brine leaving 1/4″ headspace. Push a sprig or two or fresh thyme down into the side of the jar. Assemble two piece cap. Process in a boiling hot water bath for 15 minutes. Remove the jars and enjoy that sweet POP of them sealing in all that goodness.
You can eat these at any time since they are cooked but as with any pickle if you wait a few weeks the flavor will get better and better.
Sit back and observe the pretty yumminess you just created.
Ending rant: Don't go run into the woods and pick the first large orange mushroom you find. If you don't KNOW what you are looking at, then for the sake of all things good just don't pick it and definitely don't eat it!! Use some sense. I'll get into identification and foraging in future posts but will not be held liable for any mistakes on your part just because you read something and think you know it all. There's a lot of misinformation out there about mushrooms so always double check with an expert if you a newbie. This recipe is for individuals who KNOW what they have in hand or for chefs who have acquired these yummies per a trusted forager. Done with my rant now. Enjoy!!