Anything you can do with button mushrooms you can try with Maitake!
Since a collection of Hen of the Woods Mushrooms as big as forty or fifty pounds are common at one tree in my neck of the woods, I have tried a variety of ways to store this bounty of fall, to get me through our long winters.
You can dry it, if you can put up with the awful smell!
You can can it, many people do, but I have an easier method.
I get together with a few appreciative friends and we have a ritual mushroom cleaning party. Armed with a knife, a towel, a bowl and lots of freezer bags, we sit, chat, clean and bag. Then we pop the bags directly into the freezer. That's it. no pre-cooking or par-boiling. If your freezer stays good and cold the mushrooms can last for two years. We try to use reasonable serving size bags because when you use them it's easier to use a whole (small) bag, then to try to break the frozen clump. We also chop the mushrooms into different size pieces in different bags to use different ways. I have a friend from Laos who has some dramatic recipes using Maitake strips about two inches long and a quarter inch wide and she cuts the mushrooms to size before freezing them.
Of course, the cleaner the better when bagging because you'll want to defrost right in the pan. If the mushrooms you find were growing under a rotten tree, the mushroom can actually grow around the wood particles and they'll be embedded in the mushroom flesh. Those mushrooms may not worth cleaning unless its all you have.
Try Maitake in anything you would use white button mushrooms in and try them alone fried with butter and salt. Cook it until crispy or cook until thy're just done. It's a very versitile and delicious mushroom. Freshly picked and cooked Hen of the Woods are delicious, and a large find will help get you though the winter!
- Roy Reehil
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