Archive for October, 2014

Mushroom Excitement

Hen of the Woods (Maitake)

Hen of the Woods (Maitake)

It really hadn’t rained that much so the discovery of my son Doug’s Hen of the Woods mushrooms on Sunday came as a surprise.  I had just stopped by to drop off something, and was just about to leave when I noticed these delectables at the base of an oak tree in his yard.  Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa) seems to favor oak trees and are usually found in the fall.  He’s had them in this spot nearly every year, but with the dry conditions of late, it was unexpected.  He swore they hadn’t been there the previous morning.  I borrowed a knife and a couple of plastic bags and was soon on my way home with my treasure.  I had seen sorry specimens of this same mushroom for sale in a store just the week before for $20.00/lb. but up to $50.00/lb. on the web.

Here's the last little Hen's "nest" waiting to be harvested.

Here’s the last little Hen’s “nest” waiting to be harvested.

I like to make mushroom risotto with these but already had prepared our dinner, so I decided to freeze them.  They freeze very well.  I first cleaned them with a soft brush.  Little was needed as the were so young and fresh.  There was a tiny bit of insect damage to one stem which I cut away.  I separated the “feathers,” gave them a final cleaning and sauteed them, half of them in butter and the other half in olive oil, so I’d have some for recipes using either olive oil or butter.

All cleaned off and ready for the fry pan.

All cleaned off and ready for the fry pan.

After I finished, I spread them out on cookie sheets and popped them into the freezer.  When they were frozen, I bagged them, labeled them and stored them for later use.

These have a deeply flavorful woodsy, nutty  taste; perfect for any dish calling for mushrooms.

These have a deeply flavorful woodsy, nutty taste; perfect for any dish calling for mushrooms.

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Processing Tomatoes (Soothing my Inner Squirrel)

 

I've already canned plum tomatoes and moved on to adding skinned tomatoes into my sauce.  In the foreground I have marinara (for use with sausage and meatballs, etc.), The Fra Diavolo (for seafood) is in the blue pot and the little one in the back is for tomato paste (a six oz. can is always too much so I put the paste into two oz. jars.)

I’ve already canned plum tomatoes and moved on to adding skinned tomatoes into my sauce. In the foreground I have marinara (for use with sausage, meatballs, etc.), The Fra Diavolo (for seafood) is in the blue pot and the little one in the back is for tomato paste (a six oz. can is always too much so I put the paste into two oz. jars.)

I have an inner squirrel.  Each fall I am compelled to put up food for the winter, it’s something I’ve done since childhood and it brings me a deep sense of satisfaction.  For the past two days it’s been tomatoes.  A week ago I made a vat of Bolognese sauce and a vat of tomato soup, which I froze, but I planned to can the output from this current project in glass jars.  Frozen sauce and soup make a meal easy, but the containers still have to be defrosted.  If produce can be canned, it’s instantly available.  I don’t take a chance with meat sauce like Bolognese, but tomatoes have enough acid that canning in a boiling water bath is considered safe.  We have a food mill called a Squeezo that makes easy work of skinning and seeding them, but I like the texture of the seeds and fibers so I always blanch about half in boiling water, peel them and slice them into the sauce.

My husband likes to run the Squeezo.

My husband likes to run the Squeezo.  I use plum tomatoes for sauces and paste.

First I cold pack peeled tomatoes, great to have on hand for stews, pot roasts and similar winter comfort food.  Next come the sauces; Fra Diavolo and marinara, then, using only the seedless Squeezo sauce, some for tomato paste.  As always, it’s a family affair with Charlo our African Grey Parrot helping out by providing moral support.  Now that there are just the two of us, I use pint jars for the sauces, but I do a few big ones for when the children come over.

Inner Squirrel Satisfied

Love the sound the jars make when they seal:  “snick.”  Inner Squirrel Satisfied.

 

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