I normally joke that dryad’s saddle, aka pheasant back, (Cerioporus squamosus) is the consolation prize for the frustrated morel hunter.
Not this year!
First off, because we actually did find morels (Morchella americana & M. punctipes) with quite a bit of help from one of the teenagers. Who will never let us live it down.
Second because the dryad’s saddle I normally find looks like this …
And this year, we found this!
Often dryad’s saddle becomes tough the larger it gets, but these pieces were all still very tender especially near the edge. Last year we harvested chicken of the woods in the fall, but it all went bad before we had a chance to process it. We resolved not to make the same mistake with the dryad’s saddle!
A lot of authors suggest scraping the pores from the underside of the fungus, which is pretty easy to do with a sharp knife. I didn’t find it made a difference with the smaller / younger specimens, but apparently the pores can have an unpleasant texture as the dryad’s saddle gets older and larger. (Here’s a great post from The Forager Chef.)
All in all, we harvested about seven pounds across four large mushrooms and two (comparatively) tiny ones. The smaller specimens and broken pieces we used that very night, sliced and sautéed with onions in butter …
… for mushroom swiss burgers!
Since we chose the smaller pieces to sauté, I skipped the tedious business of scraping the pores. For the rest the dryad’s saddle, in all the details below, I removed the pores before proceeding with further processing. So please read “First I scraped off the pores from the underside…” in the three preparations that follow!
What to do with the remaining bounty?
First and foremost: the largest mushroom we sliced into large pieces and froze whole and raw in vacuum sealed bags, for future use!
For the next option, we chopped one large chunk of mushroom into bite-sized pieces, boiled them for 10 minutes, and then poured a standard refrigerator pickle brine over it. I used field garlic and my own creeping thyme as seasonings to make sure the mushrooms would have an especially local flavor. This has been aging in our refrigerator for about a week now, and we haven’t tried it yet to offer an opinion.
Last but certainly not least: mushroom jerky! This is very trendy in grocery stores lately, so I was excited to make my own.
We cut off the tougher parts of the stem and cut the dryad’s saddle into relatively large chunks. These were grilled with salt and pepper for approximately (VERY approximately) 20 minutes, until they were relatively tender. Once they had cooled, the mushroom steaks were sliced into relatively thick strips and soaked in the refrigerator for 24 hours in our favorite jerky marinade. Then the flavored strips of mushroom were dried in our electric dehydrator on the lowest setting for another 24 hours.
I will be completely honest here. The mushroom jerky tasted AMAZING.
But given a) the time / propane to grill and b) the ingredients and time to marinate in the fridge and c) the time and electricity to operate the dehydrator – it was a LOT of energy consumed for a snack that was gone in 10 minutes and had almost no calories! (And part of me wonders if commercial mushroom jerky you can find in the grocery store suffers from the same challenge of requiring a lot of time / energy to produce.)
What foraging bounty have you found lately? What steps are you finding helpful (or less helpful) to save your bounty for later in the season?