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As mushroom jerky trends upwards in natural foods stores and even some mainstream grocery stores, I wanted to share a little bit about the process and my personal preferences.


Not all mushrooms are alike and some mushrooms do not make for good jerky. I have tried oysters, chicken of the woods, and my favorite- maitake or hen of the woods. I might try porcini or boletes but all other mushrooms I probably wouldn't waste the time. You want a meaty textured mushrooms, which is why the first three are good; Maitake being the best. I find that Maitake absorbs the liquid much better than the Chicken of the Woods. Oysters are opposite and tend get mushy.


Next, the mushrooms need a nice long simmering soak. See recipe below:


Ingredients: 4-5 pound Maitake, Chicken of the Woods, or Oyster

2 cups apple cider vinegar

2 cups soy sauce

2 cups water

variation: maple syrup variation: garlic

variation: ginger


*Liquid should cover the mushrooms. If it doesn't add equal amounts liquid to cover. If you want it less salty use more apple cider vinegar and less soy sauce.


Directions: Simmer fresh mushrooms in a pot until all the liquid has been reduced. The mushrooms should absorb all the liquid. Once reduced, place maitake on dehydrator racks (125˚F on your dehydrator) or on drying racks to be placed in the sun. I live in Northern Wisconsin andit's a rare day the sun is strong enough to do this, but if you have strong, consistent sunlight- go for it. You can also use your oven and set the temperature at its lowest setting, making sure to leave the oven door ajar to release moisture. They're done when you find the consistency you like. I usually let them dehydrate overnight 4-12 hours. It really depends on the mushroom you use. Chicken of the Woods takes much longer than Maitake. I've never done them in the oven, but I would imagine it takes about 2-4 hours. When done they should have the consistency of beef jerky- chewy or tough (depending on how you like your jerky).


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On Madeline Island, these are the first edible mushrooms to surface. Typically the last week in May into June. It is a true test of patience waiting for these, specifically because of the time of the year, marking a noticeable transition in temperature and weather patterns.



Weather. When I talk about patience, this is most challenging because this far north it can seem like spring may never come. When it comes to oyster mushrooms there is a very specific type of weather pattern to look for. Now, when I write, I write in regards to my specific location. Living on an island in Lake Superior our weather is VERY different from those around us, often times delayed, extended, or just outright different. Please keep that in mind, while things may be plentiful just a few miles away, our weather system changes our season drastically so this writing is specific to Madeline Island.


The type of weather we wait for is the warm rains that come at the end of May into June. Typically 65 degrees and above, with ground temperatures holding above 50 degrees. These mushrooms, like many others need a specific temperature, humidity, and amount of rain and sunshine to produce. I typically wander out after the first warm rain as soon as the sun starts to come out.


Habitat. Oyster mushrooms on Madeline Island, I have found, prefer popple, but are not limited to them. Often times when looking for oysters find dead "snags" of popple stands. Popples are very top heavy trees and are often toppled over from high winds. Oysters thrive in these "blow down" sections of the forest and we have many on the island. One of the best and most accessible examples is Capser Trail in the Madeline Island Wilderness Preserve. Oysters grow on the tree, often times well out of arms reach. My biggest tip is to carry duct tape or rope to attach your knife to a stick so you can reach those way up high mushroom clusters.


How to pick. I promote ethical and sustainable harvesting for the long-term health of the forest. What that means is only picking what you need, in season, and only leaving footprints, leaving minimal impact to the area. When harvesting only a few items are needed for your mushroom kit.

  • A basket or satchel: preferably breathable so spores can be released and spread as you plod through the woods. Avoid plastic.

  • A knife: any type, but I prefer a longer blade for a cleaner cut

  • Duct tape

  • An old toothbrush or mushroom brush: to clean off dirt and bugs in the field

  • Patience and observation skills

When harvesting, cut the mushroom away from its source rather than pulling. Clean any dirt or bugs off immediately. Don't pick everything, there is more than just you out there looking for mushrooms and it's a kind gesture to leave some for others and although not necessary for regeneration, I believe it to be good practice to leave some of the source behind for future growth.


Storing & Preserving. This goes for all mushrooms. They are best stored in a damp paper towel, inside a paper bag. Mushrooms are mostly water and they need moisture and the ability to breathe. In keeping your mushrooms this way, they can keep for a week or more depending on how diligent you are in keeping them at the right moisture level.


If harvesting for the long-term, mushrooms can be dehydrated either using a screen and the sun over a few sunny, warm days or in a dehydrator at the lowest temperature over 12+ hours or drying time. Many will say using a dehydrator leeches the mushroom of viable nutrients, so sun is best, but I find it difficult to solar dry on Madeline Island as our weather typically isn't sunny long enough to dry them completely. You can also dehydrate in your oven if your oven is able to reach a low temperature of around 115 degrees. Leave the oven door partially open and dry until tender but not crispy. Mushrooms will keep dehydrated in a glass jar for 1-2 years. To re-hydrate soak overnight. Use the water in cooking that the mushrooms soaked in as it contains loads of flavor and nutrients!


How to Cook. Simple recipes to build off.


Pan Fried: simple, delicious, and versatile

Total Time: 20 minutes Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 12 ounces (little less than a pound) oyster mushrooms cut into evenly sized pieces

  • 3 garlic cloves smashed

  • 5 sprigs of thyme or your favorite herbs

  • 2 tablespoons grass-fed butter or ghee

  • sea salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat.

  • Spread the mushrooms out in a single layer in the pan. Cook, undisturbed for 3-5 minutes until they start to brown.

  • Stir the mushrooms and cook for another 3-5 minutes until browned all over.

  • Add the ghee/butter, garlic, and thyme to the skillet and reduce the heat to low. Cook for another 5-6 minutes, spooning the ghee/butter over the mushrooms until they are dark brown and slightly crispy.

  • Remove the thyme springs and season the mushrooms with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!


Simple Balsamic Pasta

Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • Pasta, any kind but wide noodles like pappardelle work best.

  • 2-4 Tbsp butter-half to cook the mushrooms and half for the sauce.

  • 2 lbs oyster mushrooms

  • 3-8 cloves garlic

  • Balsamic vinegar- to taste

  • Dry White wine- to taste

  • Lemon- halved

  • 1 cup veggie stock

  • Rosemary

  • Crushed red pepper flakes

  • Parmesan

  • Optional: pine nuts

Directions

  • Cook the pasta.  Cook until al dente, in salted water. Then drain the pasta,  reserving 1 cup of pasta water for sauce.

  • Make the sauce.  Sauté the mushrooms in half of the butter until they are lightly browned and tender.  (To get them nice and golden, be sure that your heat is high enough, and resist the urge to stir them too often.)  Add the garlic and sauté for an extra minute.  Then add the butter, wine, veggie stock, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, crushed red pepper flakes, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and stir to combine.  Bring the sauce to a simmer, then let it cook until the liquid has reduced by about half.  Remove and discard the rosemary sprigs (or you’re welcome to just leave them in there).

  • Combine everything.  Then once the pasta and sauce are both ready to go, combine them with the Parmesan cheese and pine nuts, and toss the entire mixture until combined.

  • Season.  Don’t forget to give the pasta a quick taste here, and season with extra salt, pepper and/or crushed red chili flakes if needed.  Also, if you would like a saucier pasta, just add in some of that reserved starchy pasta water.

  • Serve warm.  Garnished with the extra pine nuts, and lots and lots of Parmesan cheese. 


Insta-Pot Risotto

Total Time: 45 minutes Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 lb. oyster mushrooms, trimmed, sliced

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 2 cups carnaroli or arborio rice

  • 1/2 cup white wine

  • 4 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

  • Optional: choose any- lemon, rosemary, sage, garlic

  • Chopped parsley and finely grated Parmesan (for serving)

Directions

  • Set Instant Pot on medium heat or "Sauté" and pour oil into cooker insert. Add mushrooms and cook until any moisture they've released is evaporated and they start to brown, about 10 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add onion, stir to combine, and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add rice and stir until chalky white, about 3 minutes. Add wine and cook until mostly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in stock. Add any choice herbs. Lock on lid, making sure steam-release valve is in the proper sealed position. Select “Manual” and program for 5 minutes at high pressure (it will take about 10 minutes for the pressure to build before cooking automatically begins).

  • As soon as the time has elapsed, turn off cooker, “Quick Release” the steam, and unlock lid. Stir with a wooden spoon; season with salt and pepper.

  • Divide risotto among bowls. Top with parsley and Parmesan and serve.


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When’s the best time for mushrooms on the island, is a question I am asked often and I have no hesitation in answering, said question. SEPTEMBER. I love September for many reasons. The island quiets and we regain our serenity, secluded beaches, garden harvests, cool nights, warm days, a first wood stove fire just a few to name...


In regards to mushrooms, much like May, September marks a transition in seasons and tends to bring dewy sunrises, morning fog, and predictably intermittent rains. As I write this today (September 18) just last week our little island was inundated with a barrage of rains to only experience the following week a reprise of summer with 80 degree temperatures and humidity that makes you question what time of year it is. I recently saw a post,

Read on...
Wondering where the perfect spot to look is?

10 seasons of the Midwest:

1. Winter

2. Fake Spring

3. 2nd Winter

4. Spring Preview

5. 3rd Winter

6. Sudden real Spring

7. Summer

8. Fall Preview

9. 2nd Summer

10. Actual Fall


This couldn’t be more accurate as we are currently in the 2nd Summer and awaiting actual Fall. Second Summer and Actual Fall are the best time for mushrooms. With warm day temperatures and a surplus of precipitation the intermittent weather provides the perfect growing conditions for many mushrooms that in other regions are done growing. For example, Southern Wisconsin at the moment is relishing in the glory of find the coveted Hen of the Woods, while up here on the island our warmer, humid temperatures are still ripe for Chicken of the Woods. But once the Chickens are done you best believe the Hens will quickly fill their role in the forest.

This time of year is a cornucopia, with the flux of warm and cold, wet and dry, sunny and overcast, most varieties can be found all in the same day. Just the other day I found Chicken of the Woods, Black Trumpets, several varieties of Chanterelles and Boletes, Oyster, and Hedgehogs. And this list is limited to the choice varieties I prefer. There are assortments of many other kinds that I simply haven’t mastered yet, so I leave them for the slugs and forest floor creatures. Now, where to find these forest beauties you may ask? In my opinion...


Chicken of the WoodsOak, alive and dead, after a warm and humid rain

Black Trumpetsmossy patches on the edge of the forest

Chanterellessimilar to Trumpets they are found in the mossy patches where intermittent sunshine pokes through the forest. I tend to find them in low places in the forest that is sometimes underwater but dries towards the end of the season.

Boleteslarge openings in the forest, edge of the forest, near open grassy areas that get a lot of sunshine

Oysteralways dead standing/fallen birch or elm, immediately after a warm and humid rain as the sun is coming out. Moisture is very important for the oyster Hedgehogalso found in mossy patches with intermittent sunshine


Mushroom bounty picnic

These habitats are pertinent to the area I search on the island. These would very well be different for your location. Timing is also very, very different depending on your region. The different between Southern Wisconsin to Northern Wisconsin can be a matter of weeks to a month of difference in timing. Being an island surrounded by Lake Superior waters, our seasons tend to be a bit off compared to the rest. Our Falls last longer as it takes longer to cool around us, and in the spring it's the opposite where everyone else has shed their layers and we're still shivering by the fire. BUT, regardless of difference, I do use Southern Wisconsin as a gauge for what is to come. Such as, their finding Hen of the Woods right now and I know the minute our 2nd Summer ends and the Chickens have finished, the Hens will immediately start popping up in their usual spots.


In keeping track of the phenology I’ve started a Google Map and have kept for the past 5 years with my findings. No I will not share, said map. When I find a mushroom or a notable instance I pin my location with a “label” with the date and what I found. I love zooming out on the island and seeing all the different locations and the pattern associated. Mushrooms can be consistent if the environment remains similar. Fortunately for us, it does, and I have certain patches that bloom within days of each other from year to year. This ability to read the weather and running timeline gives me the ability to know where to look and when- a strategy I highly recommend. I also document with photos and using the “Timeline” feature in my photo storage I can quickly see what years past have been like. This saves me time and energy, which by this time of year I’m strapped for.


Mushroom Forums to Follow!


On Facebook


On Instagram

@MushroomSociety

@_ladyofthewoods_

@lin.seed


Recipe to try!


The Best “Hen of the Woods” Jerky

This is THE recipe I get asked about the most. I’m hesitant to share it because of how delicious it is and I’ll lose my mushroom magician status once I give up my secrets. But here goes, the most amazing mushroom jerky you will ever taste.


Ingredients


2-3 lbs fresh hens, ½ lbs dried hens

8 cups water

1.5 cups apple cider (or apple cider vinegar for a more tangy taste)

1 cup low sodium soy sauce (I tend to use half because I find the final product too salty, if you like salt, keep the amount the same)

2 tsp pepper

1 Tbs fennel seeds (optional)

1 Tbs siracha hot sauce (or your favorite, my dad made a ghost pepper hot sauce a few years ago that is stupid hot and I’ll add 4 drops to the pot and it gives mine the BEST hot flavor)

2 Tbs Maple Syrup (more for a sweeter batch)

3 cloves chopped garlic (optional)


For variety:

2 Tbs Ginger

2 Tbs Teriyaki


Directions:

Place the mushrooms in a large pot.

Stir in the water, cider, and soy sauce, and COVER.

Bring to a boil.

Stir in the remaining ingredients and reduce heat to a simmer, COVER.

Continue to simmer, COVERED for an hour or so, stirring occasionally.

REMOVE COVER, raise heat and boil mushrooms stirring frequently.

Continue to boil on high heat until almost all the liquid is reduced.

Once all the liquid is reduced, remove from head and scoop out the mushrooms and arrange in a single layer in your food dehydrator. Add pepper.

Set to 125 degrees for about 8 hours.

Let cool before bagging them up.


*I’ve also used this same method and recipe to make jerky out of Oyster mushrooms.

Tip: cut your mushrooms into decent sized chunks. If you want chewy jerky thicker chunks (.5-1 inch thick), or for a thinner tougher jerky cut thinner.


As you're passing this off to people, I always refrain from mentioning at first that it's a mushroom. I let the person taste, enjoy, and question it. Once they ask, I relish in telling them it's from a mushroom and they look at me with wonder and amazement. "The texture, the flavor!" they say. Give it a try, you'll fool even the biggest of carnivore.


Lastly, as you forage please always remember to tread lightly- your feet do more damage than the picking and save some for nature. The urge may be strong but the longevity of the forest depends on it.
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