7.30.2008

String-dried shiitakes

This Saturday, Julie Winslow announced that the box of shiitakes I so eagerly anticipated raiding each week would be her last crop until mid-August.

Sensing my disappointment, she offered consolation in the form of over-stocking advice. "Dry the mushrooms for later," she explained. "You'll never run out."

While she didn't offer much else by way of specifics, these hopeful words were enough to convince me to buy out the supply. With 2 pounds in my bag, I hurried home, eager to learn how to dry my stash.

An hour on the internet and several ear-marked book pages later, I hatched a plan. According to the experts, all a shiitake needed to shrivel into preservation was a spell of dry air, a bit of warmth, and a place guarded from sunlight.

I found all three in a basement corner warmed by the pipes of a hot water heater, kept dry by the whir of a dehumidifier, and shut off from daylight beyond the scope of one tiny window. Pulling out a needle and thread, I strung the mushrooms up to dry.

Three days later, I went down to do a load of laundry and was astonished to find the process complete. Some books had predicted the process would take a week, others up to two. Clearly, I had underestimated the powers of a thirsty dehumidifier. I pulled the mushrooms from their string, tucked them into a glass jar, and set them on the pantry shelf for safe keeping.

When shiitake hunger strikes, I'll have a steady supply on hand. Thank you, Julie.

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