So you’ve found yourself with more wild mushrooms than you can eat in one sitting. That’s not a problem anyone complains about, but finding ways to preserve them can be a challenge. Dehydrating mushrooms is great for some particular varieties, but not for every species. That’s when freezing comes in handy.
Can You Freeze Mushrooms?
Yes, you can freeze mushrooms, but some varieties are better than others. Choose varieties with firm flesh or that can retain their texture, like chanterelles, hedgehogs, morels, chicken of the woods, hen of the woods, pheasant backs, and young oyster mushrooms. Mushroom tissue has a high water content and those molecules turn into crystals that rupture and damage the meat when they freeze. It can make the texture very mushy in certain fungi.
Make sure that you’re preserving fresh mushrooms; don’t wait until they’re almost spoiled. Before freezing, you first need to sauté the mushrooms to retain their texture. Also, the browning reaction creates umami flavors that are impossible to duplicate after defrosting. Prepare for cooking by cleaning the mushrooms, patting very dry, and roughly chopping into equal-sized pieces.
Prep for Freezing Mushrooms
Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat and add a glug of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms in a thin layer and leave them alone. They will release a lot of moisture, so avoid overcrowding the pan.
After a few minutes, give the pan a good shake and keep browning until they are tender and fragrant. You can add a little butter if the mushrooms dry out, or a pinch of salt, herbs, and garlic if desired.
How to Freeze Mushrooms
Transfer to a plate and let them cool completely. If you try and bag them while warm you risk creating condensation. For the reasons stated above, you want to avoid any excess moisture.
Store the sautéed mushrooms in a vacuum-sealed bag to eliminate the risk of freezer burn. You can also lay them out on a metal sheet tray in the freezer to flash-freeze. After they’re frozen, you can store them in a resealable bag and pull out only what you need for cooking.
You can add the frozen mushrooms to stews, pasta dishes, soups, and sauces without having to defrost them first. If you plan to save them for stir fry, omelets, or pizza, you’ll want to defrost slowly and blot the excess moisture with paper towels so they aren’t soggy.
Another great method is to freeze ice cubes of duxelles, a French preparation for mushrooms. To make it, finely chop mushrooms and use the steps above to brown them in butter with shallots or garlic and herbs. Spoon them into ice cube trays then cover them in oil. Set the trays in the freezer until frozen, then pop out the cubes and store them inside a resealable freezer bag to use as needed. The oil seals out the air and reduces the damaging effects of freezing. However, it can go rancid over time. Be sure to use it within six months.
When you’re ready to cook with the frozen duxelles, drop the cubes in a small bowl and once it’s defrosted, strain out the mushrooms. Use the oil for cooking and the duxelles to make a fantastic filling for stuffed venison or to enhance a pan sauce.
There’s no doubt that fresh is the best way to eat wild mushrooms. But, if you find yourself with more than you can eat, don’t let them go to waste. Try one of these methods for freezing mushrooms and enjoy them with wild game throughout the year.