Pickled Chicken of the Woods

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be one of the Chef Instructors at something called Chef Camp. It was the very first Chef Camp and from my stand point one of the best experiences I have had. Over the weekend I did two classes, one on foraging and the other on making Risotto over a camp fire. We were lucky enough on our first foraging class to find lobster mushrooms and black trumpet mushrooms and used them in our risotto. One of the mushrooms I was hoping to find while we were out there was the Chicken of the Woods mushroom. We found a couple that were very old but didn't find any worth eating.

One of the many reasons I like the Chicken of the Woods mushroom is that it is easily identifiable and usually when you find one that is all you need. I found this one yesterday and in total got 7 pounds of mushroom from it. That is enough to cook with and preserve for later. Preserving mushrooms is something that I am pretty new at. Last year I dehydrated a lot of mushrooms and tried my hand at pickling mushrooms for the first time. Those pickled mushrooms turned out to be some of the best mushrooms I have ever had. The original recipe came from a Chef named Alan Bergo who is doing some pretty amazing things with foraged foods.

One of the revelations I had while at Chef Camp was that I needed to figure out a way to work wild foods into cocktails. As part of my class I had made a Sumac Lemonade cocktail with bourbon and Herbsaint. It occurred to me after watching a demonstration put on by some folks From Bittercube that I have been missing out on some really tasty cocktails and that the wild world needed to be incorporated into some cocktails.
Years ago my Unlce had turned me on to pickled mushrooms in my dirty Martini's and it was the only way I would drink them for a while. So it seemed like a natural fit for my Pickled chicken of the woods mushrooms. I personally prefer Gin for my Martini's but all I had in the house this morning was Vodka so a Vodka Martini is what I had. I am not big on vermouth so I used some of the pickling liquid instead and a couple ounces of Vodka. The pickled mushrooms tasted as if they were made for this drink. I could have easily had 4 or 5 of these this morning but opted to wait until I could get a bottle of Gin. 

For the Pickled Mushrooms
Makes 4 pints of pickled mushrooms
3 pounds of Chicken Of the Woods Mushrooms (broken up into bite sized pieces)
4 cups of distilled water
1 1/2 cups of White wine vinegar
1/3 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of Pickling salt
Habanero Pepper
Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a pan and bring to a boil. In each Sterilized Pint jar place a stem of rosemary, 2 sprigs of thyme, one clove of garlic and half of a habanero. pack the jars with the mushrooms and then pour the brine over the mushrooms. leaving a half inch space at the top. Seal the jars and process in a water bath for 15 minutes. Let the Mushrooms sit for about a month before opening and enjoying.