Lactarius deliciosus and Pleurotus ostreatus
Today in the U.S., mentioned above milk-caps are either unknown or deemed inedible, while in Eastern Europe they are traditionally considered among the best edible mushrooms. After removing the bitterness, they are salted and later enjoyed as a condiment (there is no better companion for a shot of ice-cold vodka!) or as an ingredient in other dishes. Salted mushrooms are fleshy, juicy, and have a unique flavor. In old times, salted gruzd’ was called “the king of mushrooms.” Wiki says, only in Kargopol county, annually there were up to 150 thousand pounds of milk-caps collected, pickled, and exported to St. Petersburg.
When gruzd or ryzhik mushrooms are not available, my second favorite are P. ostreatus/Veshenki or Oyster mushrooms. Luckily, they are farmed by Kitchen Pride just about two hours away from Austin, in Gonzales, TX.
Kitchen Pride Mushrooms
Unfortunately, the info about Oyster mushrooms on Kitchen Pride’s web site is not accurate. Agaricus bisporus are other great mushrooms they cultivate. The picture shows only one type of oyster mushrooms, yellow. When I came to pick up my 10 pounds of oyster mushrooms, mine were brownish grey.
“Both the Latin and common names refer to the shape of the fruiting body. The Latin pleurotus (sideways) refers to the sideways growth of the stem with respect to the cap, while the Latin ostreatus (and the English common name, oyster) refers to the shape of the cap which resembles the bivalve of the same name. Many also believe that the name is fitting due to a flavor resemblance to oysters.” — wiki
Oyster mushrooms are $24.99/lb in Central Market and $12.99-16.99 on Farmers Markets. Asian supermarket like MT, Hana World, Ranch 99, and H-Mart often have a variety of fresh oyster mushrooms priced very reasonably. They are $6/lb when purchased directly from Kitchen Pride. Kitchen Pride harvests them per order and as many as you ask for. Their customer service is perfect! Just call them a day in advance and have cash or checkbook with you to pay. A box of Kitchen Pride oyster mushrooms is 5lb. Central Texas gardeners, if you don’t know about it yet, check out Kitchen Pride mushroom compost.
To Salt or To Pickle
They can be salted just like cabbage. Soften mushrooms by blanching them in boiling water, let them cool down to room temperature layered, measure their weight, and add 2% of salt mixing it in. The rest is the same — making sure they are submerged in their own juice and keeping them in room temperature for 3-4 days for fermentation.
Pickling is another great cooking method. The recipe below makes them ready in 15 minutes, and they taste great hot, warm, or cold as a side dish, main meal, or an appetizer. Keep them refrigerated in a clean jar for up to a month. You need a 1.5-pint jar for every 2 pounds of fresh mushrooms.