The mushrooms proper to be used in cookery grow in the open pasture land, for those that grow near or under trees, are poisonous. The eatable mushrooms first appear very small, and of a round form, on a little stalk. They grow very rapidly, and the upper part and stalk are white. As they increase in size, the under part gradually opens, and shows a fringed fur of a very fine salmon color, which continues more or less till the mushroom has gained some size, and then turns to a dark brown. These marks should be attended to, and likewise whether the skin can be easily parted from the edge and middle, and whether they have a pleasant smell. Those which are poisonous have a yellow skin, and the under part has not the clear flesh color of the real mushroom; besides which, they smell rank and disagreeable, and the fur is white or yellow.
Mushroom gravy approaches the nature and flavor of meat gravy, more than any vegetable juice, and is the superlative substitute for it: in meagre soups and extempore gravies, the chemistry of the kitchen has yet contrived to agreeably awaken the palate, and encourage the appetite.
A couple of quarts of double ketchup, made according to the following receipt, will save you some, score pounds of meat, besides a vast deal. of time and trouble; as it will furnish, in a few minutes, as good sauce as can be made for either fish, flesh, or fowl
I believe the following is the best way of extracting and preparing the essence of mushrooms, so as to procure and preserve their flavor for a considerable length of time.
Look out for mushrooms from the beginning of September.
Take care they are the right sort, and fresh gathered. Full-grown flaps are to be preferred: put a layer of these at the bottom of a deep earthen pan, and sprinkle them with salt; then another layer of mushrooms, and some more salt on them; and so on alternately, salt and mushrooms: let them remain two or three hours, by which time the salt will have penetrated the mushrooms, and rendered them easy to break; then pound them in a mortar, or mash them well with your hands, and let them remain for a couple of days, not longer, stirring them up, and mashing them well each day; then pour them into a stone jar, and to each quart add an ounce and a half of whole black pepper, and half an ounce of allspice; stop the jar very close, and set it in a stewpan of boiling water and keep it boiling for two hours at least. Take out the jar, and pour the juice clear from the settlings through a hair sieve (without squeezing the mushrooms) into a clean stew-pan; let it boil very gently for half an hour: those who are for superlative ketchup, will continue the boiling till the mushroom-juice is reduced to half the quantity; it may then be called double cat-sup or dog-sup.
There are several advantages attending this concentration; it will keep much better, and only half the quantity be required; so you can flavor sauce, etc. without thinning it: neither is this an extravagant way of making it, for merely the aqueous part is evaporated; skim it well, and pour it into a clean dry jar, or jug; cover it close, and let it stand in a cool place till next day; then pour it off as gently as possible (so as not to disturb the settlings at the bottom of the jug,) through a tamis, or thick flannel bag, till it is perfectly clear; add a table-spoonful of good brandy to each pint of ketchup, and let it stand as before; a fresh sediment will be deposited, from which the ketchup is to be quietly poured off, and bottled in pints or half pints (which have been washed with brandy or spirit): it is best to keep it in such quantities as are soon used.
Take especial care that it is closely corked, and sealed down, or dipped in bottle cement.
If kept in a cool, dry place, it may be preserved for a long time; but if it be badly corked, and kept in a damp place, it will soon spoil.
Examine it from time to time, by placing a strong light behind the neck of the bottle, and if any peliicie appears about it, boil it up again with a few peppercorns.
Cut off the stalks, and wash clean, in cold water, some small button mushrooms; rub them with a bit of flannel, then throw them into fresh water, and when perfectly clean, put them into a saucepan with fresh cold water, and let them boil eight or ten minutes; strain off the water, lay them into the folds of a cloth. Boil, in a quart of vinegar, a quarter of an ounce of pepper, the same of allspice, and two or three bades of mace, and a tea-spoonful of salt; put the mushrooms into a jar, and when the vinegar is cold, pour it, with the spices, over them.
For a good-sized dish, take a pint of white stock, season it with salt, pepper, and a little lemon pickle, thicken it with a bit of butter rolled in flour; cleanse and peel the mushrooms, sprinkle them with a very little salt, bod them for three or four minutes, put them into the gravy when it is hot, and stew them for fifteen minutes.