I spend a good chunk of the fall foraging for wild mushrooms, specifically chanterelles, around the forests of the Pacific Northwest. As I’ve gotten better, my harvests have gotten bigger and bigger – leaving me with the dilemma of how to process and preserve so many in a short period of time. After years of experimentation, I finally discovered the perfect preservation method: roasting, then freezing these golden jewels.
You start to develop a sixth sense for mushroom hunting over time. I can just “feel” that this particular spot would be good for chanterelles. I see Douglas Fir trees overhead, a slight hillside with sunlight dappling through and not much leaf cover. And sure enough, there will be too many to count just peeking their heads barely above the soft forest floor. It’s the most wonderful and exhilarating treasure hunt!
On my most recent trip I returned with 25 pounds of chanterelles. Chanterelles are amazing when they are fresh, but that is way to many mushrooms for a family of four to eat in a week. So with trial and error I have found they are still near perfection when frozen properly.
The past few years I would saute them in batches with a little butter until they “sweat out” all their natural liquid and absorb the butter. Once cooled, into the freezer they would go. But this year, after receiving a tip from an old friend, I tried roasting instead.
Oh my goodness, this is the only way to go! It was so much faster and super-simple.
The most time-consuming part of the whole process is cleaning the mushrooms, which you should not do until just before roasting. Heat the oven up to 425-450 degrees and start wiping off any forest debris.
Place the cleaned mushrooms in a single layer on cookies sheets. Then roast for 15-20 minutes. Watch them carefully, as your oven might take more or less time. Adjust the oven temp down if they get too brown too fast, or up if it seems to be taking ages.
When they have sweat out their liquid and most of that has evaporated, pull them out of the oven. Toss with a little olive oil, then pop them back in for a final 5 minutes. They are done when they are mostly dry and lightly browned.
Cool the mushrooms fully, then freeze. Tip: Pack them into muffin tins and freeze for about an hour, or until just frozen through. Then pop them out into a freezer bag. They will be 1/2 cup increments, instead of one frozen solid block.
I have four cookie sheets, so I kept a steady rotation going of two sheets in the oven while I cleaned mushrooms for the next two sheets. I was able to process about half of my haul that way one evening.
I ended up packing our freezer with about four gallon bags of chanterelles – the others we shared with friends or ate fresh. Mushroom season will continue through November, but I think I have enough now for many months to come. Happy hunting friends!