Monday, September 14, 2009

Putting Up Porcini

If you want to pick mountain porcini, you best keep your ear to the wall. No one casually gives up their patches of porcini. It's hard enough to predict where and when the buggers will fruit as it is.

Here in the Cascades we get two, possibly three distinct fruitings of porcini: the spring variety, which is now officially known as Boletus rex-veris; and the summer/fall varieties, which might be distinct from each other but get lumped in together as a single species with the famous porcini of Italy, Boletus edulis. All varieties are deserving of their nickname "king bolete." With their firm flesh and nutty flavor, they might be my favorite wild mushrooms of all.

A couple weeks ago while picking huckleberries I got a tip from some hikers that a lot of mushrooms were fruiting to the south. The next day I hopped in the car and made an educated guess about where to go. Mountain porcini like high elevations, and they're picky about tree composition. True firs and spruce are the ticket. After a three-mile hike I started to see them—first some blown-out flags in the sunny areas and then fetching number one buttons emerging out of the duff in more shaded spots.

When picking porcini, always make sure to field dress them right away. I trim the end to check for worm holes, then cut the mushroom in half. Often a pristine looking bolete will show signs of bugs once you slice it open, but the infestations will just as often be local to a small area of the cap or stem that can be trimmed away. Whatever you do, don't simply put a porcino in your basket to trim later at home. I've learned the hard way that a basketful of beautiful buttons can be a worm-ridden mess by the time you get home if you don't deal with the bugs immediately.

By the end of the day I had nearly 10 pounds of mostly perfect porcini buttons (having thrown away twice that amount as too far gone). What a dilemma! I had more porcini than I could use. Some I cooked, some I gave away, and the rest got pickled.

Pia's Pickled Porcini

My friend Cora, who stars in the morel hunting chapter of Fat of the Land the book, passed this recipe along to me from his father's cousin, who lives in Cortemiglia, Italy. She gathers 20 to 50 pounds of porcini annually, so putting up some is a must.

1 pound fresh porcini buttons, halved or quartered
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
olive oil
2 lemon peels per jar
2 dried red chili peppers per jar
1/2 tsp peppercorns per jar
(optional) other fresh herbs and spices such as thyme or oregano

1. Clean and cut up porcini buttons, then spread on a baking sheet. Cover generously with salt and set aside for at least an hour, until the mushrooms have shed much of their water. Drain and lightly rinse under tap in a colander.

2. Bring vinegar and water to boil. There should be enough liquid to cover mushrooms. Increase amounts for larger batches, keeping the ratio of vinegar to water at 1:1. Simmer porcini for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside to dry for a few hours.

3. Pack sterilized jars with porcini, lemon peels, chili peppers, and peppercorns, then fill with olive oil (try both extra virgin and light olive oils to determine taste preference). Keep refrigerated.


Ra said...

Do you think they're still out since the rain dried up? I collected some not long ago but was wondering whether or not I'd have to wait for another good rainfall to find more.

I did find 6 large Admiral Boletes in great condition just yesterday. Not a ton but enough for a good-sized meal.

Anonymous said...

those look like some great mushrooms. I appreciate the pickling recipe as well.

is your friend Cora a guy? You do say "his"

Michael @ said...

Wow, I exhaled involuntarily when I saw that bowl of pristine quartered buttons at the end.

Paul said...

"gave away"? What's a guy got to do to be on the good end of this? Something like lead you to salmon and loan you a boat? No, not enough?

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I'm available for some of those porcini if you have extra to "give-away." What a bounty!

Perry Austin said...

You should consider just drying the wormy boletes as long as theyre more bolete-than-worm-tunnel. It always drives me crazy when I find sliced and discarded boletes in the field. It gives away your patches AND its just plain wasteful, especially with buttons. Whats a little added insect protein?

Langdon Cook said...

Rachel - That 5-day deluge was hard on the boletes--froze them in their tracks. Hopefully they're popping again but I haven't checked patches lately. Love those lemony Admirals.

Anonymous - That's his last name. Everyone calls him that. He's a character in my book, too, if you want to get to know him better. ;)

Michael - I still get the chills from a pile o' pristine porcini too!

Paul - C11, third level, X parking garage. Unmarked satchel filled with golden chanterelles.

Linda - Any sources in the old country?

Perry - I do dry the dryers that aren't too far gone. See this post about drying spring porcini.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Dude, bring some down to Sacto when you come to read FOTL. And that recipe is nearly identical to one in the Terre Vivante preservation book, one I intend to use with matsutake mushrooms...

Albert A Rasch said...

Lovely, just beautiful!

Florida doesn't offer much quite frankly, I need to get up north...

Best regards,
Albert Rasch
Instincts and Hunting
Bloggers: Defenders of the Great Outdoors

Trever said...

Being an inexperienced bolete forager, would it be right to assume that after this summery spell we'll see kings' at sea level in early October?

Langdon Cook said...

Hank - Better yet, maybe we should do a porcini hunt on the coast while I'm in Cali...or perhaps I could witness a duck hunt...

Albert - I love the Everglades, but for fungi I'm afraid you'll want to head north. Then again, nearby Georgia has excellent morel picking in the spring.

Trever - Kings in my state are more of a late Oct deal on the coast; not sure about other areas. I know in the coastal mts of OR you can find them well into Nov., and probably later in CA.

Michele said...

Oh yum! Thanks for sharing that recipe--can't wait to try it.

We pick many varieties of porcini here in Finland (and I've also unfortunately learned the hard way about worms!) and usually store the excess by slicing them thinly and drying them in a sunny window. It works very nicely!

Nurit said...

Goodness. I saw some foraged porcinis at the market this wekend, they were $20 a pound! I didn't buy any :( I should have. I never had a fresh porcini. Yet.

Devon said...

I know nothing about foraging this is so interesting. It seems that many of your comments come from gathering regulars- very cool.

Debby said...

We live on the edge of the escarpment (Afro Montaine) Forest in Limpopo Provine South Africa. WE find Boletus by the basket after a really good electrical storm. Best place - under +/- 20 Pinus Patula.
Uses at home;
Fried with Butter
Pickled in Olive Oil
Frozen after being VERY lightly sauteed in olive oil

Jonny said...

Beautiful boletes, Lang! I think the mushroom foraging chapter of FOTL is probably my favorite although your experiences of lantern squid fishing were pretty awesome too. We've had such a dry summer back east that we'll be lucky to get any wild mushrooms at all. Even now it's cooled down a bit, it's still pretty much bone dry. All of which is a shame because I had earmarked next weekend for a fungi hunting trip upstate. Still, it'll be a nice walk in woods.