Maitake mushrooms (also known as hen of the woods because they supposedly look like hens perched on nests when growing in the wild on fallen timber and at the base of trees – we don’t see the connection personally, but hey, it’s a cool name, we’ll give them that) are delicious! These mushrooms are so delicious in fact, that many people want to store them after buying so they know they always have them available when they need them.
Storing mushrooms might seem like a risky business, but so long as you know how to store them correctly, then it’s perfectly safe. Better yet, the 5 storage methods we’ll show you today for maitake mushrooms are all easy to do, and help preserve the quality and flavor of these tasty mushrooms! Ready to find out more? Then grab your bags, jars, and cans, and meet us below for some preserving guidance!
Know Your Mushrooms
Maitake mushrooms are mostly available during fall, so storing them makes sense if you want to enjoy them all year round. And whilst yes, you can buy them at the grocery store quite easily whilst they’re in season, we know many of you will forage for your own. But we just want to say right now at the start of this article that if you are not experienced at foraging for mushrooms, then you should leave it to the experts. Misidentifying mushrooms might make you sick, but they might also kill you. It’s that serious.
So, before you even think about how you’re going to store the abundance of maitake mushrooms you hope to find, make sure you know EXACTLY what you’re looking for, and always triple-check before consuming any mushroom.
But with our little safety warning out of the way, let’s just get to storing those maitake mushrooms, shall we?
5 Best Ways To Store Maitake Mushrooms
Now that you’ve got your maitake mushrooms, it’s time to talk about storing them. There are so many different options available to you, but since you can only really get your hands on them in fall, we’ve focussed on easy ways of storing them that will mean they’ll last a long time. This way you have options to enjoy them all year round. We’ll go into each of the 5 best ways to store them in detail below, telling you
what you’ll need, how long they’ll last, and exactly what you need to do to preserve them effectively – so let’s get to it!
Freezing your maitake mushrooms is definitely the easiest of the methods we’re discussing today, so we’ll start there. Perhaps the best thing about this method isn’t just how easy it is, but how versatile it is too. You can freeze them raw, definitely, and then just cook them once you take them out of the freezer and are ready to use them. But you can also saute them first, and then freeze them, so all you need to do is throw them straight into a dish when you’re ready to use them. This is especially useful in something like a bolognese when you want to add a little something extra to it – your maitake mushrooms will be right there waiting to just throw in.
However you decide to freeze them, you will of course need to clean them first. If you choose to cook them, then go ahead and do that next, but freezing them raw is just fine too. After that, here’s what to do:
- Clean the mushrooms, but allow them to dry before freezing – or else you’ll end up with a mushroom ice ball
- Place into a zip-lock freezer bag
- Place in freezer
- Leave the door closed for at least 3 hours to allow them to freeze completely
- When ready to use, take them out of the freezer and either A) use them right away – best for slow cooked meals that will guarantee they’re thawed and cooked, or B) leave in fridge for 6 hours to defrost before use
It’s that simple. And the best part is, storing the mushrooms in the freezer means you can use them up to 6 months later, and they’ll still have great quality and taste!
This next method is definitely a little unorthodox, but let us tell you, it’s delicious! Pickling food is a great way to preserve it, but it also makes things more interesting too, since food takes on flavor brilliantly whilst pickling.
That means you can take your maitake mushrooms to the next level with flavors you love – chillis, garlic, cinnamon, cloves – whatever you love, you can infuse the mushrooms with it during the pickling process. We won’t tell you a specific recipe now, because you’ll want to add your own flavors, but we will tell you a generic one that you can adapt to suit you. So here we go:
- Boil 2 and a half cups of white vinegar, 1 and 3 quarter cups of water, and 3 tablespoons of salt
- Once at a rolling boil, add in around 3 lbs of maitake mushrooms
- Simmer for 12 minutes
- Allow to cool slightly, then pour the contents evenly across sterilized jars
- Be sure to leave 1/2 inch of space from the top
- Add any additional flavors here – chilli, garlic, etc.
- Remove air bubbles using a sterilized spatula
- Place clean and dry vacuum lids on each jar
- Place the whole jar in boiling water for 20 minutes to seal
- Remove from the water, allow to cool, and then store the pickled mushrooms in your fridge
Once the seal is broken, you can consume them over a one month period. If the seal is tight, then maitake mushrooms will last up to a year in the refrigerator.
Another bonus of storing mushrooms this way is that they make for a great side dish with oily fish and meat, and they’re actually a very common dish in Estonia, so you’ll be trying something new and delicious too!
Dehydrating maitake mushrooms is another great method. You’ll need a dehydrator to do this method, but if you’ve already got one, then this might be the simplest way of storing them. Here’s what to do and how to use them:
- Clean and dry the mushrooms
- Chop the mushrooms into smaller pieces
- Place in a dehydratorset to the lowest heat setting
- Wait until ALL moisture is removed
- Take them out and place in a sealed jar
- Store in a cool, dry place
This method can mean you can store the mushrooms up to a year, but 6 months is about right to hold on to all the nutritional value and flavor. You’re probably wondering how to use the dehydrated mushrooms if you’ve never cooked with them before, but it couldn’t be simpler.
Just place the dehydrated maitake mushrooms into a bowl and top with either boiling water or boiling stock. Leave to soak for 20 minutes. Now your mushrooms are ready to use as normal now that they’ve been ‘brought back to life’ (for want of better words) by the liquid.
Canning maitake mushrooms is another option, but you’ll need some specialist equipment again – a pressure canner. If you’re somebody who forages for wild mushrooms regularly though, then this isn’t a bad investment. In fact, it’ll mean you can use mushrooms year-round, and they’ll still taste as good as they were fresh.
If you’ve got a pressure canner, then here’s what to do:
- Clean your mushrooms and dry them
- Chop into smaller pieces
- Sterilize jars
- Boil the mushrooms for 5 minutes
- Strain them, and pack into the jars
- Add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart (so check the size of the jars you’re using)
- Fill each jar with boiling water, leaving 1/2 inch of space from the top
- Fit with flat lids and rings
- Place in pressure canner
- Can at 10 PSI for 1 hour if using quart jars
- Allow to depressurize and cool
- Then store in a cool dry place
This method might sound more complicated, but with a pressure canner it’s easy to do. And the best thing about it all – canned maitake mushrooms can last from 3 to 5 years! That’s a great way to store maitake mushrooms if you ask us!
For our last suggestion, before we leave you to weigh up your options and decide which storage method is best for you, we have freeze drying. Yes, you’ll need to buy a freeze dryer to complete this method, but trust us, it might be worth it. Freeze drying maitake mushrooms will mean they last for over 25 years. 25!
And they won’t lose a single bit of their nutritional value or flavor in that time. Crazy, right? And here’s all you need to do to create a whole stockpile of maitake mushrooms:
- Turn on freeze dryer to let it get cold
- Clean the mushrooms and spread them evenly on the freeze dryer tray
- Place tray in the freeze dryer
- Close the freeze dryer and allow the freeze dryer – it usually takes 24 hours
- Turn off the freeze dryer and remove the trays
- Place in canning jars and ensure an airtight seal
- Then just rehydrate with boiling water whenever you need them
Using airtight containers is the key to keeping them for 25 years plus. With a freeze dryer, you can store maitake mushrooms long term, and all it takes to use them again is some boiling water to rehydrate them. It’s that simple.
However you choose to store your maitake mushrooms, the 5 options available today are all easy and will help the mushrooms keep for a long time. So consider your options and have fun storing your mushrooms. And remember, lots of these methods can be applied to other food too, so do some additional research and you’ll become a food storing pro in no time!