I can’t say I’m an expert in mushrooms and mushroom-picking but I am pretty good. I started learning as a child by picking together with my father, who could spot ceps (porcinos) while driving the car, and my mother who would also pick berries. Today I pick mostly mushrooms that are quite safe; they are easy to recognize and don’t have many poison look-alikes.
Here are some cooking and preserving tips:
Clean the mushrooms with a brush and a knife. (I use runing water only if they are really sandy or dirty). Chop the mushrooms into smaller pieces. In a dry pan place the mushrooms and let them cook in their own liquid on medium heat (only add some water if the mushrooms are too dry). Let the liquid slowly cook into the mushrooms. Only when the mushrooms are dry can you add some butter. Keep feeding the mushrooms with more and more butter and season with salt, thyme and just a touch of pepper (optional). I like my mushrooms well cooked and little crispy.
You can stop cooking here and just serve the buttery mushrooms on toast. However this lovely mushroom can easily be used in risotto, as a side for meat or together with pasta (I make a really flavorful version of Carbonara with bacon and mushrooms). Together with cream spiced with, for example, dry sherry, they are lovely in stews, sauces, pies or lasagna etc.
I often use thyme as it really works well with most mushrooms. Its mild and doesn’t overpower the flavor of the mushroom. But there are plenty of other herbs and tasty ingredients that work just as well. For instance, rosemary works great with portabella, fresh fennel is lovely w/ Ceps and juniper w/ Funnel Chanterelles.
Mushrooms that are good to dry are, among others, the Boletus family (with my favorites Cep and Bay Bolete), Funnel Chanterelle, black trumpets and morels (another favorite but which I know too little about to pick).
Clean the mushrooms with a brush and a knife. Ceps and most mushrooms can be cut smaller with a knife into 1/4″ pieces. Don’t cut them too small as they shrink a bit when drying. Funnel chantarelles and trumpets you can just tear in half or thirds depending on how big they are.
The best way to dry the goodies are to let them get as much dry air as possible. However if you live small it works to dry them on baking paper and turn them around now and again. Try not to use newspaper as the mushrooms will soak up some of the printing ink. I use a thin net curtain that I hang as a hammock so air can come from all sides. Its also works well to dry on low heat (max 50°C) in a convection oven. It takes between 1-5 days to dry depending on which method you use and you will have an insane smell of mushrooms in your home. The mushrooms have to be totally dry before storing. I store dried mushrooms in glass jars placed in a dark cupboard. Some say they have to be in a paper bag but then they need to be stored in a very dry place. The mushrooms can be stored like this for years.
Cooking: Soak dried mushrooms for at least 30 minutes – one hour until soft. Drain and reserve the mushroom water for later. The water can also be used in stocks and soups. Sauté the soaked mushrooms in a dry pan on medium heat with some of the soaking water. When dry start feeding with butter. Season w/ salt, thyme and just a touch of pepper (optional). They are done when they are tender and have just started to brown.
I don’t think that drying Chanterelles is a great method as they lose their aroma and also tend to get a little bitter. The best way to preserve Chanterelles is to freeze them. My mother also freezes mushrooms from the Boletus family which both me and my sister prefer to dry. Other mushrooms that freeze well are the Wood Hedgehog and species of the Russula family (which I rarely pick).
Clean the mushrooms with a brush and a knife and cut them into smaller pieces. Saute in a dry pan in their own liquid until dry. Don’t add any butter as the butter will shorten their sustainability in the freezer. Freeze the mushrooms in small portions. When its time to use them, defrost before cooking and saute in a pan with plenty of butter. Season with salt and thyme.
There are of course other ways to preserve and cook mushrooms but this is how I’m used to do it. Enjoy!