DeLITcious: Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #2

Happy MaddAddam day! I will receive my copy in the mail today and plan to begin reading it as soon as I get home from work.

As promised, here is the alternate version of my interpretation of Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley from The Year of the Flood.

Pilar's Pickled Mushroom Medley #2If you have no idea what I’m talking about, start with this previous post about version 1.

What makes this recipe so perfectly God’s Gardener-esque is the option to use any fun fungi (hur hur hur) you can get your hands on — extra points if you forage them. However, I have added some specific instructions for the mushrooms I used. I also like the use of the dark vinegar over strictly white or apple cider; it seems more like something that would have been fermented in the Vinegar Room from the dregs of wine scavenged from nightclub dumpsters by the Young Bioneers. The only thing distinctly un-Gardener about it is that it must be refrigerated.

Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #1 is great for stabbing with toothpicks for a cocktail snack (or, let’s be real, a standing-over-the-sink-with-a-fork snack). On the other hand, #2 is more well suited to eat as a side dish with a fork or, even better yet, as a building block in other main dishes. Imagine a scoop of these flavorful ‘shrooms on a sandwich, salad or pasta — the herbed oil and vinegar acts as a built in dressing.

Pilar's Pickled Mushroom Medley #2Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #2 – Refrigerated
Adapted from Herbed Marinated Mushrooms from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich

Makes 1 quart

3/4 cup olive oil, separated
approximately 1 1/2 pounds of mushrooms, mixed varieties of your choice, stems trimmed or removed as appropriate (I recommend roaming your local Asian market)

I used:
5 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
5 ounces fresh crimini mushrooms, stems sliced short
5 ounces fresh white button mushrooms, stems sliced short
5 ounces fresh oyster mushrooms, torn into bite-sized pieces
5 ounces fresh enoki mushrooms, bottom of stems removed

2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 cup finely diced onion
2 tablespoons diced pimento
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup white vinegar
4 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped from woody stalk (or 1 teaspoon dried)
3 fresh sage leaves, chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
3/4 teaspoon pickling salt

Rinse all mushrooms to remove dirt or debris. Trim or remove woody stems as needed, depending on mushroom variety. If mushrooms are particularly large, cut into bite sized pieces if desired.

In a skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and sauté, covered, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Remove lid and sauté again until tender. If your varieties differ greatly in shape or tenderness, add them in an order that will prevent you from overcooking the more fragile ones. (For my mixture, I cooked the white button, crimini, and shiitake for 5 minutes. Then I added the oyster and cooked 5 minutes more. Then the enoki, and cooked for 2 minutes more.)

Once tender, drain any excess liquid if necessary and transfer mushrooms to a heatproof bowl.

Combine garlic, onion, and vinegar in a medium non-reactive saucepan. Simmer gently for about 2-3 minutes until slightly softened. Add pimento, herbs, bay leaf, salt, and remaining olive oil. Heat until just boiling, then pour over mushrooms and toss to coat.

Pack the mushrooms into a clean quart jar. Top with a lid (used is fine since it will not be processed) and screw a ring on to close. Let cool, then place in the refrigerator. (Because the jar contents are hot, you may find that the lid “seals” — this does not make it shelf-stable!)

Let the mushrooms pickle for about a week before eating. In the fridge, the oil may solidify and turn opaque — this is normal. Bring to room temperature before serving and the oil will become liquid again.

Store in the fridge for up to 1 month.

DeLITcious: Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #1

Ever since my pre-order on February 21, I’ve been counting down the days to MaddAddam.

MaddAddam, coming on September 3, completes Margaret Atwood’s trilogy that started with Oryx and Crake (2003) and The Year of the Flood (2009). The series focuses on a handful of different characters and their experiences leading up to and after a global pandemic. Oryx and Crake follows the experiences of Snowman (aka Jimmy), a privileged young man who grew up on the HelthWyzer compound (a rich suburb that is walled off from the crime and poverty of the “pleeblands”). The Year of the Flood tells the stories of Toby and Ren, former members of a fringe religious group in the pleeblands called the God’s Gardeners who predicted the pandemic, calling it the “Waterless Flood.”

I’ve just reread both of them in preparation, obviously.

One of the things that I like so much about The Year of the Flood in particular, and much speculative and science fiction in general, is the food. Whether it’s a post-apocalyptic world where the ability to grow and safely preserve food is a necessity, or an alien world where a description of dinner helps paint the vivid picture of a world unknown, well-written food always tickles me in a story.

It’s because of this that I’ve decided to seek out and develop a series of recipes inspired by my favorite books. Which I am of course, calling DeLITcious, because I can’t resist a horrible pun. And what better book to start with than The Year of the Flood as I wait with bated breath for MaddAddam to arrive on my doorstep?

In The Year of the Flood, The God’s Gardeners are nothing if not self-sufficient. In many of the flashbacks to Ren’s and especially Toby’s time with them, the food that they grow and preserve plays a major role in their daily life. They have a rooftop garden for vegetables, a beehive to harvest honey, and a mushroom growing operation, nutritional and medicinal alike, in the bottom of an abandoned condominium building.

When Toby first joins the Gardeners, one of the first foods she eats (among many others) is a dish called Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley.

Pilar's Pickled Mushroom Medley #1

“The first evening, there was a modest celebration in honour of Toby’s advent. A great fuss was made over the opening of a jar of preserved purple items — those were her first elderberries — and a pot of honey was produced as if it was the Holy Grail.

Adam One made a little speech about providential rescues. The brand plucked from the burning was mentioned, and the one lost sheep — she’d hear of those before, at church — but other, unfamiliar examples of rescue were used as well: the relocated snail, the windfall pear. Then they’d eaten a sort of lentil pancake and a dish called Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley, followed by slices of soy bread topped with the purple berries and the honey.

After her initial elation, Toby was feeling stunned and uneasy. How had she got up here, to this unlikely and somehow disturbing location? What was she doing among these friendly though bizarre people, with their wacky religion and — right now — their purple teeth?”

Pilar and her place in the God’s Gardeners is not revealed until later. However, given the friendship that grows between them, I really like that part of Toby’s first Gardener meal was a result of Pilar’s labor.

All of this is to say, I wanted to make my own version of Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley.

But then I ended up with two versions.

Here’s the deal: The God’s Gardeners most certainly would have canned their wares, both for selling at the Tree of Life market but also for packing into their Ararats (caches of food and supplies hidden all over the city in preparation for surviving the Waterless Flood). And Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley most certainly would have contained a wide variety of mushrooms plucked from the bed in the basement of the Buenavista Condos — puffballs, shaggy manes, morels, and anything else that was available when she went to fill the jars.

Therein lies the problem. There are no tested, approved water-bath canning recipes that I am aware of that utilize anything besides standard grocery store button and crimini mushrooms (which, by the way, are the same species). Other varieties of mushrooms would likely have a different density which could affect the safety of a finished canned product.

Because I’m not in the business of poisoning my loved ones, I decided that two versions would be appropriate. First, behold the Ararat-approved recipe utilizing a “medley” of crimini and white button mushrooms.

Pilar's Pickled Mushroom Medley #1Coming soon, a more exciting and exotic medley that must be stored in the refrigerator. Stay tuned. (Update: Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #2 recipe here.)

Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #1 – Shelf Stable
Slightly adapted from Marinated Whole Mushrooms by National Center for Home Food Preservation

Makes 9 to 12 half-pints

3 1/2 pounds small whole white button mushrooms
3 1/2 pounds small whole crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice
2 cups olive oil
2 1/2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 tablespoon pickling salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup diced pimento
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in quarters
27-36 black peppercorns

Equipment
9-12 half-pint jars, rings, and unused canning lids
boiling water canner with rack
jar lifting tongs
jar funnel (optional, but recommended)
clean dish towels

Important Note: If you’ve never canned before, you will probably want to study up on some basics before you get started. And use common sense when eating home-canned goods — leaking, compromised seals, weird growths, bad smells? Play it safe and throw that shit out.

Select the freshest, smallest mushrooms you can find. Wash to remove dirt, then trim off the stems, leaving about 1/4-inch attached to the cap.

Dump all the mushrooms in the largest pot you can find (or split them evenly between two large pots), then pour lemon juice over. Fill with water until mushrooms are fully submerged. Bring to a boil (this will take a very long time), then simmer for 5 minutes.

Drain mushrooms. (Because the pot was so big and unwieldy, I had a much better time using a skimmer to transfer the mushrooms from the simmering liquid to a large bowl. In addition, I was able to save and freeze some of the mushroom liquid — the lemon juice prevents you from using it as straight broth, but I froze some into cubes which I plan on throwing into soups here and there that need a bit of a pick-me-up.)

At some point you should start your canner boiling, depending on how long it takes for it to get up to temperature. When it is, pop your jars, lids, rings, and tools in for 10 minutes to sterilize.

Mix olive oil, vinegar, salt, herbs, onion and pimento in a large nonreactive saucepan. Heat to boiling over medium heat.

Remove sterilized jars from canner and place on a clean dishtowel. Put a quarter piece of garlic and 3 black peppercorns in each jar. Using a funnel, fill each jar with mushrooms until there is about 1-inch of headspace. Then ladle in hot, well-mixed oil and vinegar mixture until there is 1/2-inch of headspace.

Use a chopstick, small spatula, or other non-metal utensil to stab and stir the jar to remove air bubbles. Wipe the rim of each jar with a wet paper towel. Center a lid on top, then screw on a band until fingertip-tight (until you just meet resistance). Using jar tongs, place jars in the canner.

Bring water back to a full, rolling boil, then process for 20 minutes (or longer according to this chart if you are at a different altitude).

Using jar tongs, remove jars from canner upright, without tilting. Place on a clean, dry dishtowel without touching each other. Do not disturb for at least 12 hours.

Check each jar for a good seal (press on the middle or the lid — it shouldn’t move or make noise). Any that didn’t seal can be refrigerated immediately and still used. Remove rings to prevent rust, and clean the outsides of the jars and lids as needed before storage. Store in a cool, dark place for 6 to 9 months. Refrigerate after opening and use within 1 month.

Note on yield: While the original recipe states this recipe makes 9 half-pints, I ended up with 10 and a lot of mushrooms still left. If you don’t have enough jars or room in your canner to process them all, you can store them in non-canning jars (I used those tall salsa jars) and store them in the refrigerator.

Fun with coconut bacon: warm and smoky spinach salad

So, coconut bacon. Have you tried it? It’s one of those vegan foods you can buy pre-packaged or make from scratch, and I went the former route mostly because… well, because I saw an IndieGoGo campaign for Phoney Baloney’s Coconut Bacon, thought, “hm, sounds interesting,” and pledged a few bucks. I then promptly forgot about it until three bags of the stuff ended up on my doorstep.

I didn’t really know what to expect. How much could coconut taste like bacon, after all? Well, if you ignore the fact that I am probably the worst person to ask about what bacon tastes like, the answer is that it varies. It’s crispy baked coconut, which works really well as a bacon bit sort of deal as long as it is in a situation that allows it to remain crispy. It also is, you know, coconut, so there is a light coconut flavor lurking behind the intense salty/smoky coating. It strikes me as the kind of thing that would work in certain sandwiches, salads, and definitely breakfast or baked goods.

The mister, on the other hand, used it in a stir fry. And he added it kind of early on. While I don’t remember the specifics, I do remember that it tasted like an overall pretty decent dish except for the inexplicable pockets of soggy smoked coconut pieces. :| When I was cleaning up after dinner that night, I said, “If I save this will you eat it?” He laughed and replied, “I guess that means you won’t?” (We did not save it.)

On the other hand, sprinkled on this salad at the very last minute and enjoyed immediately, the bacon stays crisp. The light coconut flavor that shines through under the smokiness complements the salad rather than competing. It is good, and you should eat it. The end.

warm and smoky spinach salad

Warm and Smoky Spinach Salad
Adapted from Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette by Smitten Kitchen

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

5 ounces baby spinach
2 large white button mushrooms
1 large egg, hard cooked
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 small shallots
1/2 cup coconut bacon (I used Phoney Baloney’s)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

First, prep your stuff. Slice your mushrooms very thinly. Slice the hard cooked eggs into slightly thicker medallions. Cut the shallot into thin slices. Then put the spinach in a large bowl, and top evenly with mushrooms and egg. Reserve shallots.

In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Whisk in vinegar, honey, dijon, and smoked paprika. Add shallots and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and immediately pour over the salad. Toss to combine, then evenly sprinkle coconut bacon over the top and toss again. Serve immediately.

Starting the year right with stuffing (and acorn squash)

I love stuffing. It is hands down my favorite part of Thanksgiving.

It’s also a food that, until now, I had only eaten on Thanksgiving. The big Christmas day meal is breakfast in my family, and on Christmas Eve my dad does a casual soups and sandwiches get together. No Christmas stuffing.

And for the rest of the fall and winter where packing seasoned, moistened bread and vegetables into my maw would be completely appropriate? It just… never really occurred to me that stuffing could be a regular side dish on a regular day. I don’t know why. It’s not like I associate it only with being shoved into a giant bird and can’t fathom it just being made in a baking dish, obviously. I can’t explain it.

So a few months ago, when the mister harassed me for hoovering down all the Thanksgiving leftovers in a matter of days, I explained it as an innate need to just get all stuffing in my mouth as quickly as possible, since I only had it once a year and loved it so much. He replied that I could just, you know, make stuffing more often instead.

Oh.

So I emailed my grandmother to ask her for her stuffing recipes — her mushroom and onion version and her dad’s apple and raisin one.

“Sure you may have my stuffing recipes, but you know me (I kinda just make them, but I will try my best).”

Grandmothers, am I right?

So the recipe read about how I expected: Saute some mushrooms and onions, you’ll be able to tell how much is right and when they’re done enough. Add a bag of Pepperidge Farms — wait, what?

I don’t necessarily have anything against using stuffing mix, I guess. It can make sense on Thanksgiving when you have a million other dishes to tend to, and I learned from some brief googling that apparently some people get real pissed if you mess with their traditional Thanksgiving stuffing by using bread instead of a mix. But I had stale bread in the fridge. So I didn’t want to go buy stuffing mix, and even moreso, I didn’t want to end up with a quarter bag of stuffing mix jammed in my cupboard somewhere in the event that I didn’t use all of it.

So, I scrapped the whole recipe and decided to “kinda just make it.” And unghhh, I ended up liking mine better.

acorn squash with mushroom, leek and sausage stuffing

Nobody tell my grandmother.

Acorn Squash with Mushroom, Leek and Sausage Stuffing

Serves 4

2 medium acorn squashes
1 tablespoon butter *
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed, quartered lengthwise and diced **
1 Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage Vegan Sausage, quartered lengthwise and diced
4 cups 1/2″ cubes of stale bread
2 cups water
1 tablespoon not-poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

* Use Earth Balance or more olive oil for a vegan dish.
** Leeks are a pain in the rear to clean sometimes. What I usually do is slice the dark green tops off, then slice the white/light green in half lengthwise. Hold the leeks under cool running water, using your fingers to spread the layers apart and make sure you get any stubborn grit out of there.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice both acorn squashes in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds. Spray the cut surfaces lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, then place face down on a baking sheet. Pop in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Ideally you’ll finish your stuffing around the same time as these are coming out of the oven.

While the squashes are baking, spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until cubes are dry and crunchy. Remove and set aside to cool.

While your bread cubes are drying, melt butter and olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, then stir in leeks and mushrooms to coat. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally. Let the veggies shrink up and release their liquid — about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove cover, raise heat to medium high and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has mostly evaporated and the veggies have a bit of caramelization going on. Add vegan sausage and stir to combine, then cook about 2 minutes longer.

In a medium bowl, add bread crumbs then cover with veggie mixture and stir to combine. Stir not-poultry seasoning and ground sage into water. Add liquid slowly, stirring stuffing as you do so. You may not use all of the liquid, depending on how dry your bread is and your personal stuffing preference. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir once more.

Flip your acorn squash halves so the cavities are facing up, and pack each one generously with stuffing. Depending on the size of your squashes, and the size of the cavities in them, you may end up with a little bit of stuffing left over. Just put it into a small buttered baking dish or ramekins, depending on how much there is. Nobody ever complained about extra stuffing.

Put the sheet of squashes back in your oven, along with the leftover stuffing, and bake for 30-40 minutes. The flesh of the squash flesh should be pierced easily with a fork, and the stuffing should be brown and crispy on top.