Porcini Prep

8-P9048708 A forager friend of ours tells us that it’s a great year for porcini. I’m always on the look out for them; partly because they are delicious, but also because the idea of finding them in the wild is a little bit magical. Despite my enthusiasm however, I’ve yet to find any.
The foraging friend messaged Hannah on Facebook and made the extremely generous offer of a share in her haul. Of course, without any further discussion, we downed tools and drove at speed to meet her. She handed over a canvas shopping bag stuffed with the chesnut coloured, bulbous beauties. We thanked her for her benevolence, and promptly went on a fungus forage of our own – but that’s another story.


Part of the draw of wild porcini for me is my hankering to recreate an omelette we had in Beynac on the Dordogne which featured fresh ones, (ceps in this case, of course). However, our foraging friend advised that the flavour is intensified by drying; and thinking about it, I  think she’s right. So – we elected one mushroom to be cooked from fresh in a mushroom pasta dish, and the rest were to be dried.


You shouldn’t wash mushrooms, as they will absorb the water and spoil their texture. Instead, I found it best to use a sharp knife as a scraping tool to remove all the moss, soil and so on – rather like the way you would scrape the skin off ginger. The stalk (or stipe as it’s called in the field guides) has a dense texture that makes this process very satisfying, like whittling a stick with a penknife.


Once they were sufficiently cleaned up, I cut them into 3mm slices – which was also very pleasing! After dissection, I noticed evidence of some maggot/larva occupation in one of the caps, but the holes were tiny and I remembered seeing one of those ‘gross facts’ type things on the internet somewhere – the fact that the FDA deems it acceptable to have “five or more maggots two millimeters or longer per 100 grams of drained mushrooms and proportionate liquid” – so that’s normal anyway. And as John Wright (of River Cottage) says in his book,

I work hard to find my ceps and never waste any part of them – cap, tubes, stem, maggots – eat the lot, I say“.


The slices were arranged first on Hannah’s wire cooling rack, then the (3) racks out of the oven, and finally the grill had to be commandeered due to the marvelous quantity of sliced fungus. I’d read that people dry them just like that, but after 12 hours, they didn’t seem much drier, and we certainly didn’t want to risk them spoiling. So – we put the racks on the heated clothes horse and turned it on. 24 hours later, they were dry as a bone, and the guest bedroom smelled heavenly! I was also gratified to see that the drying process had caused any resident maggots to abandon ship, as there were a number of tiny desiccated specimins underneath the racks. So we won’t need to eat our FDA regulation maggot quota afterall!


Now it only remained to evict the Orzo pasta from its jar to make room for the far more important porcini. I should say – the jar was full, but we’ve eaten some of them!




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