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Nancy in Pátzcuaro

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Everything posted by Nancy in Pátzcuaro

  1. Well, we long ago decided that we didn't need to identify every mushroom in the woods. We concentrate on the edible ones, and only a few of those. This year we found a lot of lactarius deliciosus (a pale orange mushrooms that stains green) but by the time we got them home they were too beat up to mess with. They say that some strains are more "deliciosus" than others and I wanted to find out if our local strain had good flavor. Oh well--maybe next year. Besides, we were in full Mushroom Greed mode, finding so many boletus edulis that we had no time to look around for much of anything else. When you get home with all those mushrooms you suddenly realize you have a couple more hours to go--cleaning and slicing and laying them in the dehydrator. I don't mean to scare anybody about collecting mushrooms. There is a moment at the beginning when you think, "I hope this is what I think it is," but it's easily overcome by the wonderful flavors of wild mushrooms. Funghiphobia is common among many people, beginning with the incorrect concept that there's a difference between mushrooms (edible) and toadstools (not). We separate the stems from the caps when storing porcini. The stems have the same flavor but the texture isn't as fine, so I grind them in a spice grinder and use the powder in soups and stews and polenta and sauces--just a couple of pinches can make a huge difference in flavor. I used to buy eggs from an elderly Italian woman in our town, who told me that if you cook an onion with the mushrooms and the onion turns black, it's a poisonous mushroom. Not true--but on the other hand she was still alive... She used to concentrate on what she called "Cottonwood Mushrooms," which I took to mean oyster mushrooms, which grow on live wood. N.
  2. Just realized I went off on a bit of a tangent instead of answering the question--what to do with giant puffballs. I recommend puffball parmesan. N.
  3. Hello, all-- We collect mushrooms in Colorado, and have found this summer to be the best in at least a decade--lots of rain in the right places. We have finally stopped going out because we have way too much porcini. We dry them--we have 2 dehydrators for this purpose--but we sautee and freeze chanterelles. Regarding toxicity of mushrooms, there are probably only a few that will outright kill you, and others that will make you wish you had died. Most mushrooms are of unknown edibility, some just plain taste bad, some are edible but who cares, and a few are known as "edible and choice." However, even an eminently edible mushroom will cause problems for individual people. I have a very good friend who can't eat chanterelles--his throat swells up--which we would all agree is a tragedy. I can't eat shaggy manes (or the entire coprinus family) for the same reason, but in my case I don't think it's so bad since for me this mushroom falls under the "edible but who cares" category. If you have any questions at all about wild mushrooms, find a group of mycologists who will take you out with them. Mushroom patches are like fishing holes--they won't take you to their best places but they'll at least get you started. Buy a couple of guides and learn how to take spore prints, identify gill patterns and other field marks, and head for the woods. It's great exercise, for one thing, and there's nothing quite like the feeling of driving home with 10 or 20 pounds of fresh boletus edulis (porcini). And in all cases, if you've never eaten one of these mushrooms before, go slow. The mycologists say to take a bite, chew it up and spit it out. If you don't have any ill effects (numbing or tingling, for instance), next time swallow a small amount. Because people can have problems with edible mushrooms, this is common sense. It's not rocket science, just simple biology. Mushrooms are among the most amazing things in the woods, and they're not terribly complicated. And even if you get skunked and come home with nothing, you've had a nice outing. BTW, the reason you should cut into small puffballs is to check for the presence of gills, which means it's an amanita and not to be eaten. N.
  4. Hi, MelissaH-- I'm new to this discussion, and your project has stimulated my own kitchen-renovation cravings. In my case the space is large enough but apparently it was laid out by someone who did not cook. Work space is 4 steps away from the cooktop, sink occupies what should be work space--it goes on and on. However, I've cooked in this kitchen for 23+ years, and I guess I can go on a little longer until we decide to either move or remodel. I think I have a solution for one of your dilemmas--the dreaded corner cabinet. In my kitchen the dishwasher and a base cabinet create a square space behind them, in the corner, that is wasted space. Think of a right angle, facing the kitchen, with one side of the angle being the front of the dishwasher and the other the door of a base cabinet. The space behind them, which is a sizeable square space, can't be accessed from the kitchen. (This is hard to describe--you have 3 rectangles. Two of them face the kitchen, joined at a front corner at right angles, and the third is the one we're talking about.) However, you can get to that third square from the other side of the wall behind it. After being cranky about the wasted space for several years I finally realized that I could put a door on the other side of the wall--in my case, into the dining room--and turn that wasted space into a cabinet. I now store large platters and other items that I use only occasionally, and I'm no longer cranky. Seems to me that at least one of your corner cabinets--the one backing up into the hall--could be used that way. Depends on how much storage you want in the kitchen, but this space could be very useful in other ways. Think about the kinds of things that you might want to store in that area--sports gear, boots, kid toys, holiday decorations. The other corner cabinet space exits into the bathroom, and if you have the tub or other permanent items in the way you may have to just go for the traditional wobbly turntable in the kitchen, or that cool Magic Corner thing. Just a thought. Good luck with your planning. I think your project has stimulated a lot of wistful thinking--gee, we could do our kitchen too, doncha think? N.
  5. How about making Mexican pineapple vinegar? Pretty tasty-- 1 c. pineapple puree pinch of allspice 1 Tbs. brown sugar or Mexican piloncillo 6 c. white vinegar (ideally 6% but 5% will work) Combine in a large "non reactive" saucepan, bring to a simmer, remove from heat and let steep overnight. Strain into clean glass jar with non-metallic lid and store at room temp. Then there's pineapple jam--grind or coarsely chop pineapple, mix with sugar to your taste and let stand in the refrigerator overnight. Add some grated lime rind and cook until thick, pour into jars, etc. Pineapple chutney? N.
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