Friday, January 13, 2012

Mushroom Broth

I love mushrooms.

There is something magical about these fungi. I learned recently that we don't even see most of the mushroom, that what we eat is just the equivalent of the seed pod or flower of the actual mushroom. Most of the mushroom is the rotting stuff it's growing in. Tree mushrooms like oyster mushrooms, hen of the woods, and shitake grow inside the dying or dead tree. Like gossamer tentacles, the mushroom sends out feelers throughout the softening wood, helping to make it break down even more. When conditions are just right (temperature, moisture, light levels), the mushroom pushes out a cap or shelf that carries the mushroom's version of seeds.

Ground mushrooms, like puff balls, morels, and button mushrooms need just the right soil, light, temperature and moisture conditions to survive. Truffles actually never really reach the surface and must be dug up.

In any case, mushrooms do have some healing properties. They also provide minerals and vitamins.

I love freshly picked and gently washed or brushed mushrooms, sliced and sauteed in a little salted butter.

But one of the things I missed the most by removing commercially prepared foods from my diet, is condensed cream of mushroom soup. Crazy, huh?

So, what to do about it? Could I make it myself? Can you? Of course you can! But it is one of those food items that takes a long time and has several steps.

The first step is making mushroom broth. Right here you get to make a decision. Do you want vegetarian mushroom broth or beef based mushroom broth?

The difference is only in the liquid.

What kind of mushrooms do you want? Well, since I don't know what you have available, I'm just going to tell you it doesn't matter. Use the type you have the most available. Mix them up.  You can use mushrooms that are just a tad past prime, so you may be able to get them cheap!

Okay, so let's get started.

Mushroom Broth
  • 2 pounds of fresh mushrooms. 
  • 2 tablespoons of salted butter (pastured is best)
  • 2 cups of clean water or beef bone broth
  • 1 yellow onion, minced (optional)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced fine
Clean the mushrooms by gently brushing off the dirt. If really muddy, you can wash them with a quick rinse of water, but dry them immediately. Melt the butter in a large heavy pan (I like my cast iron stew pot for this) over low heat. Add the onion if you are going to use it. While those are starting to meld, chop the mushrooms (or not, if you like chunky soup).  Add mushrooms. Stir around a bit. Turn heat up one notch. Stir a bit more until the mushrooms start to sweat. Add the minced garlic. When you feel the first hunger pang, add the water or broth. Stir once or twice to unstick the bottom stuff.  Put the lid on the pot. Turn it back down on low and walk away for a hour. Come back and taste to make sure you are happy with the flavor. At this point I may add any or all of the following:

  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • Black pepper
  • Sherry or Red wine (or a beer or white wine or mead.... whatever I have on hand or in hand)
  • A very scant dash of Smoke
  • Paprika
  • Sage
  • Thyme
Stir in the additions you would like and stir, put the lid back on and walk away again for an hour.

Come back taste again. Make adjustments you feel are needed and then either eat it or ladle out into a glass container or containers (jars) and refrigerate. If you want to go the next step and make creamed soup, you will need to measure out 2 cups of mushroom broth. Put aside. Measure out one cup of milk or, if you want real decadance, 1/2 cup of cream and 1/2 cup of milk.

In your pan, melt a tablespoon of butter. Add a tablespoon of flour (wheat, rye, cornstarch, arrowroot powder,... whatever you use for thickening). Stir the flour into the melted butter. Add another teaspoon of butter or coconut oil. Stir over low to low medium heat until the flour absorbs all of the oil/butter and is just starting to toast. Pour in one cup of the broth. I use a whisk at this point to avoid lumps. As soon as this starts to thicken, add 1/2 of your dairy. Whisk, whisk... again, as soon as it starts to thicken, add more broth. Finally add the rest of your dairy and the remainder of the broth. Whisk, whisk, whisk... keep the stuff moving so it doesn't stick. Eventually, it will reach the thickness you want.

Mind you, this is not condensed cream of mushroom soup, so it won't be THAT thick.

Use this in your favorite recipe (green bean casserole, mushroom gravy, topping for baked chicken or meatloaf) or just eat it like soup.

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