Porcini Mushroom Soy Sauce
I have a some rituals that keep me content during the off-season, when conditions make it nearly impossible to forage. Most days begin standing at the east window, huddled around a steaming cup of nettle tea, while the candied dawn stretches and yawns over the horizon. Next, I shuffle my woolly slippers into the pantry in search of breakfast. Part food storage area, part temple to the growing season past, its shelves are packed with tins of herbs, and jars of pickles and preserves. There is something deeply satisfying about standing in the doorway and scanning the shelves. My preserves aren't just aesthetically pleasing, they're a treat to the ancient part of my brain that loves knowing I can feed myself. Also, there are memories stored inside the cell walls of those plants.
Invariably, in this winter morning ritual, my eyes settle upon the rows of dried porcini. My obsession. My prize. I'm compelled to the two gallon container that houses the finest mushroom slices. The ceremony goes like this -- I lift the lid, close my eyes, genuflect, and nuzzle my entire face into the jar.
The piano-wire tension connecting all things throughout the summer of '12 as fires ravaged the mountainsides. The balm of honeyed relief when the rains finally came.
Raindrops tapping me on the collarbone, bootsteps swallowed by sodden moss, hawks screeching on the updraft.
Sugared soil and arrows of sunlight bolting through canopies of Englemann spruce. Dirty fingernails and my favorite knife.
Suspense, seduction, Mother Nature's slight of hand. Mushrooms.
I season my meals with remembrances.
Porcini Mushroom Soy Sauce
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
10 oz. soy sauce (don't skimp here, use the good stuff!)
1. Place the dried porcini mushrooms into a sterilized pint jar.
2. In a pan over medium flame, heat the soy sauce to a bare simmer. You aren't trying to cook it, just get it warmed up.
3. Pour the hot soy sauce into the jar full of dried porcini mushrooms. Cover, and let it cool to room temperature.
4. Let the mushrooms steep in the soy sauce in a cool dry place for at least a week, but 2-3 weeks is preferable.
5. Strain out the mushrooms. I like to use a potato ricer for this, as I find it is really good at squeezing out every last drop of liquid. Store the porcini-infused soy sauce in the fridge.
Porcini soy sauce can be used in all of the recipes where you'd normally reach for soy sauce, for stir-fries and the like. But don't overlook it as the seasoning in marinades, soups, gravies, braises, etc. The strong umami character of porcini soy sauce can give you a lot of mileage in the kitchen.
Don't throw out the soaked mushrooms! Buzz them up in a food processor, and keep them in the fridge as well. They make a nice salty condiment. You can throw them into pretty much any savory dish where you need a salty element. I'm particularly fond of eating the salty mushrooms atop a baked potato.