A Spoonful of Umami

contributed by Lonelle Yoder

It’s shaping up to be a fantastic July for mushrooming, with rain, rain, and more rain. I hope many of you are finding basketfuls of chantarelles, chickens of the woods, and other delicious things. I, sadly (or not?), have had all my free time commandeered by the baby opossums, bluebirds and robins I’ve been fostering for the Ohio Wildlife Hospital, with little time left for me to make it out into the woods, so my mushrooming has been limited of late. Happily, though, I’ve found a great way to preserve and enjoy the flavors of mushrooms harvested in times of plenty, which allows me to enjoy them during dry spells: mushroom seasoning powder. If you’ve got more than you can eat right now, consider making this umami-packed powder, which has the added benefit of taking up very little space in your cupboard. This is also a great way to use the non-tender parts of mushrooms like chicken of the woods, which don’t make for good fresh eating. 

SHROOMAMI SEASONING POWDER 

It’s important to cook your mushrooms first, even though you will ultimately dehydrate them, since wild mushrooms should nearly always be cooked before consuming. So once you’ve cleaned them, roughly chop them, toss them with a little (not too much!) oil, and spread them on a baking tray. Roast at 400 or 425 F for 25-35 minutes, until the edges are browned. 

Roasting time will depend on the type of mushroom. For mushrooms that are on the tough side, like the stem pieces of chicken of the woods, you may want to use a wet cooking method rather than (or in addition to) roasting, as this will tenderize them a bit. Either add some cooking liquid (water, stock, or white wine or sherry) to the roasting pan, or braise them in the liquid on the stovetop for 10-15 minutes. If there is cooking liquid left in the pan after the mushrooms are cooked through, it begs you to make a quick sauce or gravy or add it to another dish! 

When your mushroom pieces are cooked through and lightly browned, chop them into smaller pieces and dry them in a dehydrator or in your oven on the “warm” setting.  

Now it’s time to pull out your kitchen gadgets! A food processor will work in a pinch, but I like to use an electric coffee grinder to get the finest grind possible. Working in small batches, grind the dehydrated mushrooms into a powder. Take care when taking the lid off of your grinding device, since the mushroom powder will be very light and apt to drift up and out of the bowl – give it a few seconds to settle before removing the lid. 

You’ll probably end up with some powder and some larger nubs; gently sifting it through a fine strainer will let you separate out the larger pieces, which you can re-grind or save separately from the powder. 

The mushroom powder can be used as is, but you can boost its flavor power by adding salt, pepper, dried herbs like thyme and sage, or anything else you fancy. Proportion-wise, aim for at least 3 parts mushroom powder to 1 part other seasonings.  

I like to save the larger pieces that I sifted out for adding to risotto, soup, tomato sauce, or anywhere else I’d use fresh mushrooms. The seasoned powder is great for adding to gravies, sauces, and soups, mixing into pasta dough, sprinkling on hamburgers, grilled or roasted vegetables or eggs, or rubbing onto meat roasts and anything else that benefits from an umami boost. I’d love to hear in the comments how you’ve used it!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go feed some baby robins.

1 thought on “A Spoonful of Umami

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s