Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Yule Log 2015

This year's Yule Log cake admittedly came a few weeks after the Yule. We brought it to share at some friend's post-New Year Winter Open House party, since the three of us can't possibly eat the whole cake ourselves. The cake is a vanilla biscuit roulade, filled with a black cherry (Prunus serotina) mousse, frosted with chocolate buttercream, and decorated with chocolate and cocoa nib "bark". You often read in identification manuals that the outer bark of the black cherry tree looks like burnt cornflakes or chips, so I tried to figure out how to represent that in chocolate. I used the same black cherry puree that I had made for ice cream and jam, having a few small containers left in the freezer.

The meringue mushrooms are always fun to make too, with just some egg whites and sugar, and decorated with melted chocolate and candy melts. This year I made some oysters (Pleurotus ostreatus), Amanita muscaria with white gills and red tops, meadow mushrooms (Agaricus campestris) with dark chocolate gills, and one red-capped Russula with a white stem and white gills.

Black cherries in the summertime

Monday, January 4, 2016

Oysters in Winter

Fresh oysters and wood ear fungi

Paprika and garlic rubbed oysters
New England had been having an unusually warm autumn, as well as a late start to the winter weather. The warmth let us hike and hunt mushrooms up until Christmas day, with the polypores making a great showing, along with many, many logs covered with edible oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus). Oysters found this late in the season are great because they tend to be bug-free and can be found in great quantities. Wood ear fungi (Auricularia auricula) were also found and brought home to dehydrate for soups.

Pan fried oysters over a bittercress salad and polenta

Dandelion root
There were even lots of greens we collected into the end of December, most were bi-ennials starting to grow and some were plants that had seeded themselves then started to sprout. Leaves of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) were growing from the first season's basal rosette, and large enough to use as a wrap! Yard onions (Allium vineale) leaves came back up and can still be plucked even as the ground starts to freeze. Rosettes of hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) popped up, and there were even tiny, white blossoms on some of them. Dandelion greens (Taraxacum officinale) that are picked now tend to be on the mild side, and roots can still be dug and roasted for a coffee substitute.

Fresh dandelion greens

Garlic mustard leaves and some bittercress

Friday, November 13, 2015

Hen of the Woods for Dinner

2015 has been a fantastic year for our favorite edible fungi, hen of the woods, maitake, or Grifola frondosa. Last year we were not able to find more than two, both from a very reliable spot. This year we brought home more than 35, I stopped counting after awhile. We used our jerky recipe on most of the very large fronds and cores, doing a little tweaking to the ingredients and measurements, and vacuum packing lots of delicious jerky to snack on all winter long.

Wild Rice and Maitake Soup

With all of the little fronds, extra bits, and smaller, more compact hens, we made nearly a month's worth of dinner. "Hen"chiladas, creamy hen soup, brothy hen soup with wild rice, a loaf made with buckwheat, hen stroganoff, hen and potato gratin, miso and soy glazed and roasted hens with root vegetables, sausages, and hen and sweet potato hash all made appearances at our table for the month of October and through the beginning of November. We didn't make formal recipes for all of our photographed meals, we just wanted to eat dinner! Most of the cooking we do is on the fly, tasting as we go. Robert and I both have previous experience in commercial kitchens and can cook without written recipes.

Buckwheat and Hen Loaf with Hen Gravy

Lots of the small bits also made it into our freezer and into the dehydrator. We now have 3 gallons of dried hen fronds to re-hydrate and make into a umami-filled broth and as a base for gravy. Preserving our bountiful harvests has been very important for us to alleviate the mushroom hunting withdrawal symptoms we feel during the cold New England winters.

Hashbrown Casserole with Pickled Ramps and Hen Sausages

One trip, 9 hens

Monday, November 9, 2015

Coming in Early Spring 2016 . . .

We are very excited to announce the early spring release of our book with Skyhorse Publishing,

Adventures in Edible Plant Foraging

Finding, Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Native and Invasive Wild Plants
We are hoping to partner with  nature centers. libraries, garden clubs, and any interested organizations who would like to help us promote the book through signings, slide shows or lectures, or tastings of wild food throughout the seasons. 

Please feel free to contact us at kraczewski@comcast.net or through our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/The-3-Foragers-118852208201771/?ref=bookmarks.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Wild Mushroom Festival

An autumn bounty of edibles, honeys, puffballs both large and small, chicken, winecaps, and parasols.

2015 will be our fourth year participating in the Denison Pequotsepos Wild Mushroom Festival in Mystic, CT. Our club, CVMS, hunts in surrounding locations and transports our fungal finds to the nature center to display and discuss with the patrons who pay to attend the event. Members of CVMS don't get paid for this, we are educators and volunteers, and the nature center benefits from the admission price. Several local restaurants also attend, with mushroom-based nibbles (including a candy cap ice cream, which tastes like maple!), and there are mushroom items for sale by the nature center. A band plays, kids run around the woods, and there are free walks and talks on site for attendees, as well as informative slide shows.

A festival favorite, Grifola frondosa, maitake

This year, we are giving a slide show and discussion on Seasonal Wild Edible Mushrooms of Connecticut at 2:00 PM, inside the nature center. While some in the mycological community consider pot-hunters the lowest rung of the mushroom enthusiast ladder, well below amateur identifiers, fungal remediators, cultivators, and true mycologists, we are proud mycophagists, meaning we love to cook with our wild mushroom finds. 

Crispy baked ravioli with goat cheese and maitake filling, coated with crumbs and garlic mustard seeds

This will be another event in our growing list of presentations and workshops. We enjoy sharing our knowledge of wild fungi and wild edible plants, nuts, roots, and berries with interested people who are willing to learn what to identify and eat, and how to do so in a sustainable manner. We truly feel we would prefer to teach 100 people how to responsibly collect and enjoy wild foods for themselves, rather than see one person go into the woods and unsustainably and greedily collect all of the wild food to sell at a personal profit to restaurants and in farmer's markets to 100 people. We support our philosophy by partnering with local nature centers, garden clubs, libraries, and youth groups and giving walks, slide shows, and presentations for reasonable fees. It is during these programs that we are able to discuss sustainability and respect for the environment, and hopefully inspire a new generation of kids and adults to be amazed by the wonder of our local wild plants and fungi, and their conservation for the future.

Bolete bonanza

Monday, August 31, 2015

Polypore Mushrooms

Trametes versicolor

Most polypore fungi are found on wood, and they are just doing their job, which is breaking down the lignins in the wood. Fungi are great recyclers. Many of the harder polypores can persist for a whole year or longer, and we can always find them in the forest in different stages of freshness and ages. While polypores tend to be tough and dull with age, they can be brilliantly colored and flexible when fresh.

Lenzites betulina
Polyporus squamosus
Fresh Trichaptum biforme
Another Trichaptum biforme, with fresh growth on the older shelves
Some Trichaptums have tiny (less than 1 mm) Phaeocalicium ascomycetes growing on the edges
Trametes versicolor
Another fresh Trametes versicolor, the color bands can vary widely

Chicken Mushroom Recipe - Chicken Mushroom Wontons

The weather has been hot and dry for nearly the whole month of August, so mushrooming in Connecticut has been poor. Our forays with CVMS have consisted of a lot of polypores and wood decayers, and few fleshy mushrooms. But, one of our favorites to eat is the chicken mushroom, one of those wood decayers, and the harvest for them has been good.

We can only eat so much "chicken" pot pie (Gillian's favorite), eat so much curried "chicken", make so many sandwiches and wraps with "chicken" salad, and make so many sausages (we still have about 60 in the freezer), so we needed to come up with some new ways to use up some fresh chicken that was gifted to us by other mushroomers who couldn't eat their entire haul.

This isn't even a real, measured recipe, I just used what I had and ended up with a few dozen wontons. I chose to oven bake them rather than frying them and they crisped up nicely.

Chicken Mushroom Wontons

sunflower oil
fresh ginger
minced garlic
soy sauce
salt and pepper
cleaned chicken mushroom
wonton wrappers (I get mine at a local Asian market)
optional: chili oil or hot sauce in the filling

1. In a food processor, pulse the chicken mushroom fronds until finely chopped.
2. In a large skillet, heat about 2 Tbsp. of the sunflower oil (or any other neutral-flavored oil) over medium heat and lightly cook the chopped mushroom. Add enough hot water to completely cover the chopped mushrooms in the pan, and poach the chopped pieces until the water evaporates, about 15 minutes.
3. While the chopped mushrooms are poaching and the liquid is reducing, finely chop the garlic and ginger, or use a microplane and shred them finely.
4. Once the liquid has evaporated from the pan, push the mushrooms to the side and add a drizzle of oil to the empty part of the pan. Cook the ginger and garlic for 2-3 minutes without allowing it to color, then stir them into the cooked chicken mushroom. Remove from the heat.
5. Toss in chopped scallions for color and season with some soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Allow the filling mixture to cool, it should be moist, but fairly dry.
6. Heat oven to 425ºF and prepare a sheetpan with parchment paper.
7. Lightly moisten the edges of a wonton wrapper with your finger. Place about 1-2 tsp. of filling in the center of the wrapper and close. You can simply fold the wonton wrapper in half and pinch the edges, or close it in a more elaborate manner. I brought the four corners of the wrapper together in the center and sealed the remaining edges, making a square pouch shape.
8. Place the wontons on the parchment and spray them lightly with vegetable oil, and bake for 10-15 minutes, until browned and crisped. Serve with additional soy sauce or dumpling sauce for dipping.