This section is from the book "Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them", by W. Hamilton Gibson. Also available from Amazon: Our Edible Toadstools And Mushrooms And How To Distinguish Them.
According to Cooke, the Beefsteak mushroom before mentioned is employed as an entremet in Vienna, the fresh fungus being cut in thin slices and eaten as a salad. The fresh, crisp young Russula mushrooms thus served also furnish a very appetizing relish, with the usual varieties of dressing as in the various sauces, mayonnaise, French dressing, etc. The Polyporns sulphureus having been boiled and allowed to cool might furnish a deceptive "chicken" salad. Doubtless other species of mushrooms - Cla-varia, for example - would lend themselves acceptably to this method of serving. Cordier recommends this latter species as "appetizing even when raw."
Select the mushrooms in the round-button condition and before expansion; immerse them in cold water for a few moments, then drain them; cut off the stalks, and gently rub off the outer skin with a moist flannel dipped in salt; boil the vinegar, adding to each quart two ounces of salt, half a nutmeg grated, a dram of mace, and an ounce of white pepper-corns; put the mushrooms into the vinegar for ten minutes over the fire; then pour the whole into small jars, taking care that the spices are equally divided; let them stand a day, then cover them.
Large quantities of mushrooms of various species are annually consumed in Europe in the manufacture of catsup. Following is one of the many favorite foreign recipes:
Place the Agarics, of as large a size as you can procure, layer by layer in a deep pan; sprinkle each layer with a little salt; the next day stir them well several times, so as to mash and extract their juice; on the third day strain off the liquor, measure and boil for ten minutes, and then to every pint of liquor add half an ounce of black pepper, a quarter of an ounce of bruised ginger-root, a blade of mace, a clove or two, and a teaspoonful of mustard-seed; boil again for half an hour, put in two or three bay-leaves, and set aside until quite cold; pass through a strainer, and bottle; cork well and dip the ends of the bottle in melted resin or beeswax; a very little Chili vinegar is an improvement, and some add a glass of port-wine or of ale to every bottle. Care should be taken that the spice is not so abundant as to overpower the true flavor of the mushrooms.
It will often happen in a normal fungus season that the production will exceed the possibility of consumption, and thousands of pounds of delicious mushrooms will thus be left to decay in their haunts.
The process of drying mushrooms for winter use is in most extensive practice by the peasantry of Europe and Britain, who thus find an all-the-year-round dependence upon mushroom diet.
With most species this process of desiccation is so simple that it is recommended, in the confident belief that, once tried, the winter mushroom will hereafter afford a frequent relish upon many a board and will well repay the slight trouble in their summer preparation.
In most of the Agarics - notably the Campestris, Procerus, Champignon, Russula, Chantarelle - simply threading on strings and hanging in the sun and wind, or festooned above the kitchen range, will be sufficient to reduce them to complete dryness in a few hours. Indeed, some of these, such as the Procerus and Champignon, dry spontaneously in their haunts, and may be thus gathered.
In the instances of more fleshy fungi, such as the Boleti, Polyporei, and Coprinus, more rapid desiccation is necessary. By exposing them in the sun on a tin roof or absorbent paper the moisture is rapidly evaporated. They might also be suspended above the kitchen range in a wire basket and thus quickly dried. In Boleti the drying is facilitated by the removal of the whole pore layer, which is easily separated from the cap.
Mushrooms thus treated seem to retain their aroma; in Procerus, Clavaria, Morel, Helvella, and "Fairy-ring" being intensified above that of their moist condition and most appetizing.
The desiccated specimens should be kept in a dry place, with good circulation of air, or enclosed in hermetically sealed tin boxes; in the latter case being occasionally examined to insure against mould by possible absorption of moisture.
When desired for use they are simply soaked in tepid water, which, by gradual absorption, causes the specimens occasionally to assume almost their original dimensions and juicy character, when they should be treated as recommended for the fresh mushrooms.
For the benefit of the vegetarian, or the curiously or experimentally inclined, I append a few suggestions apropos of a menu a la mode, in which the fungus might be employed with good effect as a rival to the familiar established prandial delights. Each selection is numbered with reference to its particular descriptive or suggestive paragraph in the preceding pages of the chapter.
A feast based upon these recommendations, re-enforced with appropriate adjuncts - the "mother"-born vinegar, the fungus-leavened loaf, the fungus-foaming beaker - might cumulatively prove a persuasive plea for the creed of vegetarianism.