Salting (pickling) wild edible mushrooms
One of wild edible mushroom preservation methods is salting (pickling), which basically means that edible mushrooms are covered by salt and spices in layers and stored in a cold place. The idea of wild edible mushroom salting is similar to pickling the cabbage which during pickling period becomes sour.
Salting preservation method is applied to gill fungi only. To be more precise, the best gill fungi for salting are Lactarius necator (known as Ugly Milk-cap), Lactarius torminosus (known as woolly milkcap, bearded milkcap), Lactarius deliciosus (known as Saffron milk cap, Red pine mushroom) and even Russula claroflava (known as Yellow Swamp Russula).
Whenever I go to the forest for mushroom hunting I prefer to collect pore fungi and I pick edible gill fungi for salting only. I do not use gill fungi for immediate cooking, freezing or drying because they are not as tasty as pored mushrooms (e.g. Boletus, Leccinum, Suillus species). Therefore, if I do not plan to do any salting I leave gill fungi alone
Before I start wild edible mushrooms salting I carefully clean fresh gill fungi from the dirt, leaves, sand and other things from the mushroom cap, gills and stalk to make mushroom as clean as possible. Especially dirt and sand are the difficult ones to get rid off – it feels horrible when during consuming salted mushrooms you can feel sand on your teeth! To prevent this edible gilled mushrooms need to be clean very well!
After cleaning I do not separate mushroom caps and stalks but I do cut gill mushroom stalks off up to the half of its length and put the mushroom into a big pot by mushroom cap down. I use one pot per one Lactarius type in order to keep Lactarius necator, Lactarius torminosus and Lactarius deliciosus separated. I add cold tap water to all pots and leave mushrooms to be soaked for several days. As Lactarius species contain bitter milk keeping them in cold water will eliminate most of their milk and bitterness.
The water in pots should be regularly replaced with a fresh one – I change the water every morning and every evening. Lactarius necator (known as Ugly Milk-cap) and Lactarius torminosus (known as woolly milkcap, bearded milkcap) should be kept in cold water for 3 days, Lactarius deliciosus (known as Saffron milk cap, Red pine mushroom) – for 1 day and Russula claroflava (known as Yellow Swamp Russula) has no need to be soaked in water.
These were the preliminary steps to be done before starting wild edible mushrooms salting. Each Lactarius mushroom type (Lactarius necator, Lactarius torminosus and Lactarius deliciosus) can be salted separately, or they all can be mixed in one pot. The salting can be done in 2 ways:
1) To calculate the amount of salt required for salting it’s necessary to know the weight of all prepared and soaked mushrooms which will be used for salting. Typically, salt amount equals to 3-4% of the mushroom weight.
I cover the bottom of wide well-cleaned and washed by boiled water glass, ceramic or wooden pot with a layer of salt (it should not be thick layer, rather spread salt equally). On top of salt I put prepared and soaked mushrooms by mushroom caps down to cover the bottom of the pot with salt. The layer of mushrooms should not be thicker than 3 -4 cm. Then I spread salt over mushrooms and add some spices, like dill (the whole twig), leaves of the cherry tree, cut leaves and root of the horseradish, the leaves of white-, red-, or blackcurrants, caraway (cumin) seeds and cut pieces of garlic.
The horseradish helps to prevent the mold on mushrooms, mentioned leaves and garlic add great aroma, salt starts the process of pickling. Then I add a new layer of mushrooms which I cover with salt and same spices. I fill the whole pot with prepared and soaked mushrooms in this layered manner. Once the pot is full I cover the top with cotton cloth and put enough weight to press the mushrooms (it can be any big heavy stone). Prepared in this way pot needs to be kept in cold ventilated place (5-10 C).
In 1 day pot needs to be checked to define whether there is enough liquid from the mushrooms (the liquid should cover all mushrooms). If there is not enough liquid it means either the weight is not heavy enough or there was not enough salt. To correct it you need to press mushrooms harder (= add more weight). If you still have not enough liquid you need to add salted water to cover mushrooms. The salted water is prepared from 20 gr of salt dissolved in 1l of water.
The pot needs to be checked every 4-5th day to see if there is still enough liquid. If not, the cold boiled water should be added. In 1-1.5 months of keeping salting mushrooms in the cold ventilated place (5-10 C) they will be ready for consuming. Once salted mushrooms are ready I prefer to consume them within 1 month because the salting process cannot be stopped (in spite they are stored at the low temperature 1-5 C), therefore there is a risk of over-salting them.
2) The prepared and soaked mushrooms are put in the cooking pot, water is added just enough to cover mushrooms and pot is placed on the high heat. Once the water starts to boil the heat needs to be reduced to medium and salt (2 table spoons for 1 kg of mushrooms), 2 bay leaves, few black peppers and dill. Once the heat is reduced and spices are added the mushrooms should be cooked during 10-15 minutes.
The cooking pot with mushrooms should be removed from the heat and cooled down. Cooked mushrooms should be placed in the glass jars and covered by the liquid left after cooking (liquid amount equals 1/5 part of added to the jar mushroom weight). Jars need to be closed tight and left in a cool place (about 7 C) for 40-45 days. After that they can be used for consuming.
I, personally, prefer the first way of mushroom salting and have not tried the second one but I know people who like the second way of edible mushroom salting. I would advise you to try both ways to see which one you prefer most.
!!! However, I would like to make you aware that vacuum conditions in hand-made preservation is dangerous because Clostridium botulinum bacteria (which usually exists in a dirt) might be developed inside (the bacteria is harmless unless there is vacuum conditions with missing oxygen) and consuming such infected mushrooms will lead to Foodborn Botulism. Visually it’s very hard to identify whether the glass jar with mushrooms is infected.
In this regard the first way of wild edible mushroom salting is safer because you never cover the pot to prevent constant access of the oxygen, therefore bacteria has no conditions for successful development. Please refer to Wiki for more information on Botulism.