Once again I was lured in by the siren song of cheap prices. While picking up some strawberries for strawberry black pepper jam (recipe to follow in another post) I found mushrooms for $.10 a package. The 8 ounce packages that I think are usually around $1.99 each were on clearance for $.10 apiece. I looked the packages over, and while they definitely had some brown spots on them I did not see any mold or anything that looked so horrific that they were unusable. Unable to contain my excitement I quickly grabbed two flats and stacked 30 packages on them.
Arriving at home the first thing I did was to fill my sink with water and a little bit of ice to cool it down. I cut the packages open and dropped the mushrooms into the sink. Then I used my hands to bump them up and down in the water. That got most of the dirt off of them. I used the sprayer function on my faucet nozzle to rinse them off.
Then I took the mushrooms out one at a time. I cut off the bottom quarter inch of the stem as well as any brown spots that did not look good. All in all I think I only threw out 15 mushrooms. Most of them were good to go. Some of them had soft slimy spots that I sliced off. It turns out that 15 pounds of mushrooms will fill two 16 quart stock pots.
At this point my wife made the mistake of walking into the kitchen. I quickly put her to task on this next part. We took each mushroom and sliced it. The smaller mushrooms with only 3 to 4 slices each. The larger would be 6 or more. I tried not to make the slices too thin knowing very well that they would cook down quite a bit.
The mushrooms need to cook in water. I filled the pot with mushrooms and then added water. The problem is the mushrooms float and it was hard to keep them below the surface. I heated the water to boil, then reduce the heat and cook them for five minutes. After five minutes the color had darkened and they had turned slightly translucent.
I filled the jars with the mushrooms. This is the part that blew my mind. Such great volume of sliced mushrooms reduced down and down and down in size. By the time I was done I only filled nine pint jars. Is next part was a little tricky if you have sensitive fingers. I swear mine don’t feel heat anymore. I drained the liquid that they had been cooking in out of the jars. Then I added fresh clean boiled water up to the 1 inch headspace. I placed a ring and lid on each and was prepared to process them.
This is when the closest thing to catastrophe struck my kitchen. The weighted regulator for my pressure cooker was missing. I searched high and low in every spot that I would put it, everyplace my wife would put it, and any place I thought my kids might have hidden it. But it was to no avail. About 30 minutes later I conceded that I would not be processing the mushrooms tonight. I placed the jars in the fridge so that they wouldn’t be a complete waste and went to bed. The next day I ran to a hardware store bright and early and bought a new regulator.
Reprocessing food is not the end of the world it’s just labor-intensive. First off all the lids on the jars were trash now as the sealing compound had already softened on the hot jars yesterday. The contents of the jars was emptied back into a pot and slowly brought up to boil. I let it simmer for a couple minutes to make sure that everything was heated through. And then I refilled clean jars. If you ever processed something and the lids don’t seal right, this is the correct method for reprocessing the food. Same thing happens if you have an emergency come up and you can’t get things into a processor before you have to walk away from them. Throw them in the refrigerator to store them safely and then repeat them the next opportunity that you get.
The jars replaced in a pressure canner and heated at 11 pounds for 45 minutes. If you aren’t familiar with the process, you put 2 to 4 inches of water in the canner, put the jars inside, and put the lid on. Turn the heat on with the weighted regulator off. When steam starts purging through the regulator vent set the timer for 10 minutes. That little event should look like an old-fashioned locomotive pouring steam out. This ensures that all the cold air is purged out of the pressure cooker and the entire content is filled with water and steam. After 10 minutes put your weighted regulator on and watch the pressure rise. When it gets to the desired pounds reduce your heat to find that magic spot that keeps it at the number that you need. For me an exact medium keeps it at 11 pounds. That is the time that you start your processing timer. At sea level for mushrooms in pints it was 45 minutes. After 45 minutes turn the heat off on the burner and do nothing else. Moving the canner could cause the temperature to drop to rapidly and a rapid drop in temperature will cause your jars to purge. That will result in a pressure cooker full of glass jars and horrible mushroom soup.
After the pressure drops to zero remove the regulator to make sure no steam remains inside and slowly and carefully remove the lid. Allow the jars to remain in the processor just a little bit longer so they continue to cool slowly. If you have the time and don’t need the processor for anything else just leave them out overnight and return to them the next day when they are cool. Be aware that pressure process jars stay hot for an extremely long time. Jar lifters will still be needed to move them.
Allow the jars to sit undisturbed for 24 hours so the lids sealed correctly. You now have shelfstable mushrooms for the next two years. As I said my 15 pounds of mushrooms turned into less than 9 pint jars by the time everything was said and done. That’s approximately 2 pounds of mushrooms per jar. I ended up with one failure due to a lid not sealing correctly but those aren’t bad dogs for all of the processing that I do. If you have one jar that doesn’t seal and you do not want to reprocess it just put it in the refrigerator and use it within next week or two.
These cooked mushrooms would make a great addition to any marinara or other pasta sauce, as well as for use in casseroles or chicken dishes.
I decided to make the family chicken Marsala that night because that recipe is always much easier than I remember.
This was one of the more labor intensive and frustrating projects that I’ve done since getting into canning. I still insisted at $.20 a pound it was probably worth it long-term. However I would make sure to grant myself the time to get this done.