Many varieties of wild mushrooms are available fresh for very short
periods during the year. In the past, to preserve the delicious flavor
and aroma of these succulent morsels, a large portion of the fresh
harvest was dried for use during the rest of the year. Mushrooms
vegetables consist of up to 90 percent water and dehydrate quickly,
making them prime candidates for drying. They can be dried whole,
sliced or diced. Some varieties are even dried and then pulverized to a
powder for adding to sauces and soups.
Some dried mushrooms vegetables, such as morels, shiitakes, and cepes
re-hydrate to a condition very much like that of fresh mushrooms. Other
varieties maintain their flavor and aroma but will somewhat softer in
texture when reconstituted than when they were fresh. Almost all dried
mushrooms can be substituted for fresh ones in many dishes.
Morels are extremely expensive, but for flavor and aroma, the dried
variety is dynamite, especially in areas where fresh morels (which have
a brief season) are virtually unavailable. Dried morels need to be
carefully rinsed after re-hydrating to remove any debris that may have
collected in the honeycomb-like surface.
Cepes are available in some supermarkets and in specialty stores. They
are also quite costly, but 1 ounce of dried cepes can equal to 6 or
more ounces of re-hydrated mushrooms vegetables. I think the dried
cepes from Italy have the best flavor.
Chanterelles tend to lose some flavor in the drying process, but they
retain their lovely golden color. When fresh are out of the question,
dried chanterelles make a very acceptable substitute and go a long way
toward satisfying the longing to re-create the delicious dishes you
might have sampled in the past.
Wood ear mushrooms are the traditional mushrooms vegetables used in
Chinese soups and in many vegetable dishes. In China, they are often
used exactly like the fresh ones. Once re-hydrated, they regain the
slightly gelatinous crunch they had when fresh these mushrooms increase
at least three to four times in size once re-hydrated.
Shiitakes are the popular Chinese black mushrooms vegetables used in
many Asian dishes. These, like most other varieties, are dried without
the stems. Dried shiitakes are an excellent substitute for fresh ones,
and in china are used interchangeably.