Friday, June 28, 2019

Mulberry Marzipane and Mulberry Agar jewels

Mulberries are falling and staining the sidewalks around town, and you can hear the flocks of birds among the branches. Mulberry picking is easy--the ripe berries almost fall into your bucket, or you can spread a tarp under a small tree and give it a hearty shake to make it rain berries.

I ran the mulberries through our Roma food mill 3 times to extract the juice and pulp, while removing the seeds and stems. This is the juice/pulp from which we would normally make jam, but we decided to try a few other things as well this year. 

Mulberry marzipan

First, Robert made some mulberry marzipan, sticking a single slivered almond into the end of the shaped paste to mimic the small stem. The flavor is subtle because you don't need too much liquid when making marzipan from scratch.

Mulberry agar jelly jewels

The second thing we tried was mulberry jelly jewels, made using agar-agar as a gelling agent and pouring the mixture into silicone molds. Once the agar firms up, I just popped them out of the molds. In one batch, I used mulberry juice with a touch of lemon juice added, in the second batch I mixed in a little coconut milk to make them creamier and lighter purple. They are small enough to pop them in your mouth, one at a time.

See this link for an older recipe for Black and White Mulberry Ricotta Tart

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Wild Mushrooms for Dinner: Spicy Chicken (Mushroom) Patties on Steamed Buns

When we teach edible mushroom classes, we praise the chicken mushroom (Laetiporus sulphureus, L. cincinnatus) as a very good edible mushroom. It's not so much that the mushroom tastes like chicken, but its texture mimics meat in a satisfactory way. We find that the chicken mushroom can be one of the most versatile wild fungi when it comes to making meals, standing in for meat in many cases or just being used on its own. Another reason we like it so much is that chicken mushrooms can fruit in spring, summer, or in the fall, giving us many opportunities to utilize this mushroom in different preparations. With this week's spring chicken find, I ground some in the food processor to make spicy patties with rice, scallions, garlic, chopped nettles, and hot spices. We served the patties in steamed buns with some gochujang sauce, fresh radishes from our farm share, and cilantro.

white chicken
It's very important that the chicken is collected in good condition, when it is still young or tender. Coming upon an old chicken mushroom can be disappointing, but you should never be tempted to use it anyway--it will be like eating sawdust. Ideally, you want the flesh to ooze yellow or milky juice when cut into, the colors to be bright, and the fronds to be bug-free. Sometimes the overall mushroom can be very, very large, or just a few fronds on the side of a tree. This fungus starts out looking like spray foam on the tree, before it shelves out. You will find the yellow chicken mushroom growing from the trunk of a dead or dying tree, as it is a heartwood rotter. The white chickens are found at the bases of dead or dying trees, as they rot the butt wood. Chicken mushrooms are polypores, which means there are "many pores" on the undersides of the fronds, although you may need to use magnification to see the small pores. 

When we find an excessive amount of chicken mushroom, we cook it and freeze the cooked parts in vacuum packed bags. Dehydration is not ideal for this fungus, as it becomes woody and does not rehydrate well because the context of this polypore is constructed of skeletal hyphae which harden into a dense substance when dried. Sometimes large finds end up in a recipe and brought to a weekend foray to share for lunch. We also make and freeze many vegan "sausages" made with ground chicken mushrooms, gluten, and seasonings to use all year long. You can find a list of some of our recipes using chicken mushrooms here.

#chickenmushroom #wildmushrooms #foraging