What oh what do you do when you are up to your eyeballs in chanterelles (or anything else, honestly)? In a good year, it isn’t unusual to end up with 5 or more pounds of chants a DAY to deal with. Chanterelles in particular do not dry well. Unless you are really experienced with canning, have a pressure canner and the proper training, you should NOT can them. So what do you do?
I will illustrate one of my favorite methods of dealing with an overabundance of anything. I’ve used it for dealing with large amounts of ground meat, mushrooms (of many varieties) zucchini, tomatoes, what have you. The key to this is a silicone muffin or loaf pan. Or both. I like my muffin pan because each cup measures out to exactly half a cup. I have a loaf pan and each loaf measures out to 2 cups. It makes using them in recipes fairly easy since they are premeasured.
In the case of chanterelles, clean and dry makes all the difference. If your shrooms are muddy (and chants often are) use a soft bristled brush to clean them. You can get one of these at http://www.fungaljungal.com (if he doesn’t have it listed for sale, drop him an email; he has them).
If at all possible, no NOT wash them. If you have to, you have to, but see what you can do to avoid it. Hand pick through the mushrooms (pro tip- cut the muddy stem ends off before you put them in your basket)to make sure there are no sticks and leaves. Once they are all cleaned, (brushed if needed) and ready to go- chop them up into your desired particulate size. Put them in a bowl as you chop so you don’t get stuck in a chopcookchopcook frenzy.
Once they are all chopped, get a heavy skillet hot. I like to use cast iron, but any heavy bottomed skillet that you are used to cooking on will do. I had a lot of them this time, so I used a 14inch heavy aluminum pan. Once it came to temperature, I dosed it pretty heavily with olive oil, then added two diced onions and a whole lot of garlic. I like garlic.
My kids used to complain about the amount of garlic I used and I pointed out they had never been bitten by a vampire. About 4 cloves from scratch or a tablespoon of commercially prepared chopped garlic.
I let them brown pretty well and then add the mushrooms. Like all of them. I quickly stir, then add a cup or two of water. This is kind of key. It helps distribute flavor evenly and it also helps sweat the mushrooms. On top of this, I add a few heaping tablespoons of rendered bacon fat.
This came from some free range pork we had purchased from Morrow Meadows Happy Hog Farm (Whom you can contact through their Facebook page here).
Seriously, if you can find free range pork, and have the room to purchase a whole animal and get it processed, DO IT! The difference in quality is remarkable. Factory farmed animals are no where near the quality and spend their entire lives in misery. Free range animals are so much happier, healthier and produce a phenomenally better quality of product. If you can purchase a whole animal and get it processed, it is often less expensive than factory farmed per pound.
Chants love bacon. Also ham. Pork in general, actually. They are ok with other meats, but for aome reason, they shine when paored with pork. Some flavors are water soluble, some are fat soluble, and some are a bit of both. I find that chants are a bit of both.
I put the lid on it and let it simmer, stirring it every once in a while. Once cooked through, I give it a little taste to see if it needs salt, butter, or what. Sometimes it needs a bit of acid, so I add some lemon juice, lime juice or whatever I have on hand.
Once I decide it is ready, I scoop it into the silicone muffin pan, put it on a cookie sheet and stick it in the freezer. Look! Nester is helping me.
I have a matched pair, a ladle and a ladle with holes. I call them Nessie and Nester. They were a gift from my daughter. I used Nester to strain out the cooking liquid that remains.
Once all the mushrooms are frozen, I pop them out, and pack them into plastic freezer bags, or food prep containers.
Remove as much air as possible, and bam,. Precooked, pre measured chants. OR whatever else.
I’m not a huge fan of freezing raw meat, thawing, then cooking and all that, so I tend to cook meat prior to freezing. Especially ground meat.
Using this method is super-efficient, and bonus, when you strain out the cooking liquid and freeze it separately, you basically have little stock nuggets. Well, I call them pucks, but you get the idea. I used those pretty extensively.
I’ve used this manner of preserving for stock, tomatoes, peppers, meat, onions, soup, vegetables, sauce, gravy, mushrooms of all persuasions, herbs…. basically, if it can be crammed into a muffin cup and frozen, it works. I’ve actually prepared lunches by throwing pucks of Vegas, meat and sauce into a microwave safe container and taking it to work. By lunchtime, they have mostly thawed out and I just have to heat, and stir.
Give it a try and see what you think!