The winter Mushroom University classes that we attend in New York feature a potluck lunch. Robert cooked up a Milky Mushroom Chowder with the salt brined mixed Lactarius/Lactifluus mushrooms we preserved last year.
The three species are L. hygrophoroides, L. volemus, and L corrugis. They are preserved by first boiling the mushrooms for about 15 minutes, then layering them in a glass jar with nothing but sea salt and a few bay leaves. Within a few days, the salt will draw the excess moisture from the mushrooms and there will be enough liquid covering the mushrooms. To eat the mushrooms or use them in a recipe, they need to be soaked for a few days in several changes of fresh water to remove the excess salt. Then they can be cooked vigorously in soups or eaten with a good eastern European bread. The milky mushrooms retain an excellent texture this way, which is great since they don't dry and reconstitute well and we are limited on our freezer space.
|L. corrugis has white milk, light orange gills, matching brown cap and stem, and often a corrugated cap.|
Lactarius/Lactifluus fungi are unique in that they bleed a colored milky substance when cut or scratched, if they are fresh; dried or older specimens will not have as much milk. The color of the milk can range from clear to white, yellow, orange, or even blue. The milky substance can sometimes carry an odor like fish, and can stain your skin or anything else it touches.
|L. hygrophoroides has white milk, creamy colored gills, a matching light orange-brown cap and stem, and widely spaced gills|
Lactarius/Lactifluus are related to Russulas, the crumble-cap mushrooms, but don't disintegrate as easily. The cell walls of Russulas are more breakable and crumbly than most fungi due to shorter, more globular cells vs. elongated, fibrous cells of most fungi. Lactarius/Lactifluus have similar cells, so they cut cleanly and have a wonderful crunchy texture once cooked or salted.
|L. volemus has lots of white milk, creamy colored gills, a matching light golden orange cap and stem, and often emits a fishy odor from the milk that goes away when cooked|
In a relatively rainy summer, the milky mushrooms will fruit in mostly hardwood forests in crazy amounts. 2016 was dry and we collected very few, but they all went into the salt brine. The edible species Lactarius/Lactifluus are among our list of favorite edible fungi because of their great texture and taste. Not all species of milky mushrooms are edible, please do further research or join your local mushroom club to learn the local mushrooms where you live.