We have been finding large amounts of hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa) this season, staring with the first find at the end of August. After an initial early flush, they started fruiting heavily in late September, and we have found more than 30 hens so far this season. We preserve our hens mostly by dehydrating the fronds to use later for soup stock, and by freezing the cores and more fronds to chop up for burgers. Robert also made lots of sausage with hens this year, using the same technique for making vegetarian sausage made from sulfur shelf mushrooms.
We needed to find something else to do with the pounds of mushrooms in the fridge, so we made some wonderful jerky. We found that this works best with slices from the core, or with very large fronds, since the pieces shrink up quite a bit in the dehydrator. We are using our Excalibur dehydrator, but an oven set on the lowest temperature will work, although the drying times will vary. We store our dried jerky in covered glass jars, but if we had a vacuum sealer, that would work well too. It doesn't last long around here, and it disappears even faster if we bring it out to a potluck event. This recipe makes a sweet/salty/spicy jerky, and the flavors can be changed to suit your tastes.
For the marinade:
1 c. sweet apple cider
3/4 c. low sodium soy sauce, or tamari
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
1/2 tsp. ground fennel
5 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/2-1 Tbsp. Sriracha chili-garlic sauce
1. Place all marinade ingredients in a blender, and puree for a minute. Pour the marinade in a glass or non-reactive shallow pan, preferably one with a cover.
2. Clean the hen of the woods mushroom, making 1/8" thick slices of the core and the larger fronds. All parts can be used, but they will dehydrate at different rates and shrink up quite small.
3. Boil the mushroom for 10 minutes, and drain completely. Place the boiled hen pieces in the marinade while still hot, and refrigerate for 4-8 hours.
4. Remove the pieces of hen from the marinade and drain the excess liquid off before arranging on dehydrator trays. If drying in the oven, use wire racks placed on a sheet pan. Arrange the marinated mushroom on the trays and dehydrate at 120-130°F for 6-12 hours, until dried and leathery. The time will vary based on the thickness and sizes of the pieces, so check it often.
5. Store in an airtight jar or vacuum pack.
We often have more mushroom pieces than the dehydrator can handle at once, so we use the marinade one more time to flavor another batches, the second batch getting soaked a bit longer, until we use up all the hen. Check out these photos to see how much a very thick frond will shrink up, the top picture is raw, then the center picture is after boiling, and the third picture is after marination and dehydration.