Chanterelle mushrooms (Cantharellus species) are prized by wild mushroom hunters and restaurant chefs for good reasons: they are one of the most delicious fungi, and also add attractive shape, color and texture to any recipe that includes them.
Chanterelles are usually only available for a few months of the year. If you are lucky enough to find or purchase more chanterelles than you can use fresh, they are very easy to preserve so that you can enjoy them year-round.
There is, however, one method of preserving mushrooms that does not work well for chanterelles: dehydrating them. Although most mushrooms, wild or cultivated, dry well, chanterelles lose a lot of their excellent flavor when dried. Fortunately, there are several other ways to successfully preserve them.
Chanterelles keep their quality best if they are cooked before they are frozen. There are three ways I get great results with frozen chanterelles:
- Sautee in butter or oil
Clean and, if desired, chop the chanterelles. Heat a skillet over medium low heat and melt a little butter in it. Add the chanterelles and cook, stirring or flipping them over occasionally, until they first release their juices and then reabsorb them. Because chanterelles are relatively dry mushrooms, this takes less time than it does with other mushrooms, usually just 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove the chanterelles from the heat and let them cool for a few minutes. Transfer them to freezer bags or containers and freeze.
- Dry sautee
Clean and, if desired, chop the chanterelles. Heat a skillet over medium low heat: do not add butter or oil. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring or tossing constantly, until they release their juices and reabsorb them. This will take about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the mushrooms cool for a few minutes. Transfer them to freezer bags or containers and freeze.
- Steam then freeze
Bring water to boil in a pot with a steamer basket on top. Once the water is boiling, add the chanterelles. Cover and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the steamer basket full of mushrooms and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to freezer bags or containers and freeze.
Pickling is a classic way to preserve chanterelle mushrooms. Cook your chanterelles before you pickle them, using the dry sautee method above. You can use any vinegar-based pickling brine, but keep the vinegar solution fairly strong (equal parts water and vinegar is as far as you should safely dilute the brine base). Add the seasonings of your choice.
Here is my favorite recipe for pickled chanterelles. Once pickled, you should store your chanterelles in the refrigerator or can them in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes (adjust the time if necessary for canning at high altitude).