from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
One of the cool things about being a convert to Orthodox Christianity in America, is that Orthodoxy here is less than 100 years old, and so you get a little taste of old world traditions as handed down by grandma. It’s definitely upped the ante for my appreciation of all things Greek, Arab, Ukrainian, and Russian. Since being in a Russian Orthodox parish the last two years, I’ve been introduced to a lot of Russian and Ukrainian traditions and foods. The latest? Russian marinated mushrooms.
At Pascha (Easter) this year, we were at someone’s house, and I just could not stay out of these tasty mushrooms. They were so deliciously tangy—and I lurvz me some vinegar—that I was having to strategically plot my routes past the hors d’oeuvres table so I didn’t look like a mushroom hog. When I started blabbing about it to my friend Peter, he yelled, “Hey Mom! Show Jamey the mushroom jar, he really likes them.” Turns out, there is a Russian grocery store in Northeast Philly. I’ll get there one day and buy a jar, I’m sure, but in the meantime, I made my own.
I pulled up tons of recipes online, but settled on three. My goal was to adapt these recipes according to: 1) my whim and instinct; 2) 8 oz. of mushrooms in a pint sized Mason jar. What follows is just an approximation of what I did. I didn’t write down the exact quantities, and I did a little improvising. And what’s funny, even though I have a favorite, I love them all.
To make all three batches, you need:
- Three 8 oz. packages of button mushrooms (or some other small mushroom – slice the bigger ones) – RINSE WELL
- 3 pint-sized Mason jars
- Optional: Whole garlic cloves and slices of onions to throw in each jar for extra marinated treats
We’ll start with my favorite:
- 1/4 cup White vinegar
- 1/4 cup Red wine vinegar
- 3 Tbsp water
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 2-ish large minced cloves garlic
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
In a pan, I put all the above ingredients (without mushrooms) and brought to a boil. Boiled for 3 minutes. I threw in one package of mushrooms and brought it back to a boil, then cooked for one more minute. Put it all in a jar, and topped off with a splash of red wine vinegar and white vinegar. Set aside. That easy. (And of course, if you’ve ever pickled before, “topping off” does not mean to the top of the jar—leave a little space.) [Ditch the sugar for a Paleo version.]
My second favorite:
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/8 cup olive oil
- Dried dill
- 4 cloves minced garlic (or so)
- White vinegar
- 5-10 black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
I sprinkled a package of mushrooms with the lemon juice and let them marinate for 15-20 minutes. Then I put them in a saucepan and covered with water (they float, so “covering” is a bit hyperbolic). Brought to a boil, then simmered for about 10 minutes. Added a little bit of salt during this time. Then, I strained the mushrooms and “mushroom water,” reserving some of the water. I put the bay leaves and peppercorns in a jar, then added the mushrooms a couple of scoops at a time. Between each scoop, I added a shake of dill and some minced garlic. Once all the mushrooms and garlic were in the jar, I added a splash of the mushroom water, the olive oil, and topped off with white vinegar.
My third favorite (still very good) is similar to the second:
- White vinegar
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- A few cloves of whole allspice
Boiled the mushrooms 30 minutes. Removed the cooking water, reserving one cup. Added the cup back to the mushrooms and threw in 1/4 cup white vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil, the garlic, dill, salt (2 tsp?), and the allspice cloves. Cooked five more minutes. Added everything to the jar, and topped with white vinegar.
Did Wells, and Do Betters…
My dad taught me to assess things in projects in terms of what I did well, and what I will do better the next time. Basically these are awesome. But here are a few notes for going forward.
The marinades can be reused. I’ve actually done three batches, and in the subsequent two batches, all I had to do was boil the mushrooms for 20 minutes or so, and add them to the jars. They taste good by day 2, and amazing by day 5.
My third batch was done with baby bellas, but the first two batches were button mushrooms. Any mushrooms can be used, and I’ve even seen a recipe online where a guy buys a giant can of Chinese mushrooms to make his. I don’t think the mushroom’s type is that important, but my best flavor was the button mushrooms. They seemed to soak up the flavors of the marinades so much better…and the bellas have such a pronounced flavor that they just weren’t as enjoyable (but still good).
I “canned” these with Mason jars. The mushrooms were actually smaller when the jars came out of the hot bath. I have not decided if this is good or bad. Perhaps it helped to meld the flavors of the marinade, imparting more “mushroom water” to the marinades. I don’t know. What I do know, is at this point putting new (freshly boiled) mushrooms in the old jars is working just fine to meld the flavors.
Olive oil. If you’ve ever made homemade Italian dressing with olive oil and tried to keep it in the fridge, you know
this is a dumb idea. Or at least should know. Olive oil congeles at a certain temperature, and whatever that temperature is, it is higher than my refrigerator. The first batch has such little oil that it hasn’t really been an issue, but the third batch has the most oil and getting mushrooms out involves digging through oil clumps. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great. Solutions: use canola or soybean oil (if you don’t have an aversion to those), or just set the jar on the counter for a little bit before eating.
Well, this email has gotten a little out of hand. It’s a good thing I didn’t try to cover my Sriracha pickles, too!
jamey w. bennett