Ah, umami…that Japanese word for the savory flavor of a rich stock…that meaty taste that leaves a long lasting, silky, mouthwatering coating over the tongue…the effect that creates a balance of tastes and rounds out the overall flavor of a dish. Umami enhances the palatability of a wide variety of foods for me.
The word actually is used to describe the effects of MSG (monosodium glutamate) in foods. However, there are many people who cannot or do not want to use MSG. So what is a cook to do? Well, make mushroom powder of course!
Often grouped with vegetables, mushrooms provide many of the nutritional attributes of produce, as well as attributes more commonly found in meat, beans or grains. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium (8%), riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more. So it only makes sense to add these little pearls of nutritious goodness to our foods.
Preparing the Mushrooms
Choosing Mushroom Varieties to Dry
Wash or Brush?
I wash my mushrooms. Yes, you heard me correctly. I know that many of the professional chefs say to brush only but quite frankly I cannot get past the fact that my wonderful mushrooms have been grown in manure, peat moss, or some derivative thereof. Even if I am okay with being told that the medium they grow in is not toxic in any way, I still don’t want the grit in my food.
I have read the arguments that mushrooms absorb water like a sponge. But I have also read that as long as you don’t soak them, you are good to go. There have been many experiments where a brief wash did not absorb that much moisture to change the flavor concentration. Studies have shown that mushrooms really don’t absorb much of their weight in liquid at all. Alton Brown did an experiment. He rinsed a batch and weighed them as well as doing it with dry brushed mushrooms and found a negligible difference between the two. However, you should never soak, peel or remove the stalk while washing your mushrooms.
For my part, the joy of never having to stand over a sink for an hour brushing off 5 pounds of mushrooms may well influence my verdict. However, I am pretty picky about my produce being clean, so washing it is. Be sure to pat dry with a towel to remove as much moisture from the surface as you can, then allow them to thoroughly air dry – less drying time in the end and your mushrooms will not turn dark and rubbery.
- Slice the mushrooms thinly, making about 1/4″ slices works well for me. The slice size really doesn’t matter as long as you are consistent in your slices. You don’t want different sizes because the drying time takes longer. If you’re doing a ton of smaller mushrooms like white caps or baby portabellas, use a heavy duty egg slicer.
- Place them into your dehydrator trays in a single layer. Mushrooms shrink up a lot, so I don’t worry about them touching, but I do not stack them up.
- I dry my mushrooms at 100°F/38°C with my dehydrator for a longer period (doing it overnight seems to work just fine). You can do it at a higher temperature (125°F/50°C for 4-8 hours) and get a shorter drying time. You want mushrooms that aren’t spongy. If your mushrooms are in small pieces, use mesh inserts for your dehydrator trays.
- Once thoroughly cooled, simply pulverize the food in a coffee/spice grinder or, if you don’t own a grinder, in your blender or other high powered appliance like a Bullet. A mortar and pestle works well also. You want to grind them enough to achieve a powdered consistency between white sugar and white flour.
- You may find it useful to shake the material from the grinder through a sieve. Put the larger pieces left behind through a second grind or store them in a jar for adding to foods as flakes.
- Store in sealed, airtight containers away from heat and light according to the directions below.
How to Store
For immediate use: Place the powder in an adequate size jar with a oxygen absorber(if you are using a larger jar) and store away from heat, steam, and light. Adding a few grains of rice will help to keep it from clumping. You can also add a bit of arrowroot powder as a natural anti-caking agent.
Long term storage: Store the powder in vacuum sealed bags for long term food storage. Mylar bags with an oxygen absorber will help eliminate the light and other variables. I usually store the slices themselves in long-term storage and grind when I am ready to refill my jars for short- term storage.
- Stored in a spice jar or a Mason jar, powders will last about 6 months.
- Stored in a Mason jar with an oxygen pack, powders will last up to a year.
- Vacuum sealed with an oxygen pack, then double-bagged in Mylar and stored in a cool, dry place, powders will last five years or more. When stored like this, the powder can become compacted. If it does, just sift, re-blend, or grind again before using.
- If you vacuum seal the mushrooms without first grinding, the shelf life is extended, and you have more flexibility. Powdering increases the surface area, which is why powders have so much punch, but that larger surface area also allows for more oxidization and more surface area for pathogens to attack and thrive on. You can always open a bag or two and blend/pestle and mortar it as needed and store the remnants in jars for immediate use.
Uses for Mushroom Powder
- Put a tablespoon into your favorite omelet recipe.
- Use to help bring more flavor to soups and stews without adding texture or meat products.
- Make your own mushroom soup and skip the price, high sodium, and preservatives in the canned soups in the store.
- Sauces are made more hearty by throwing in a bit of mushroom powder.
- Make your own mushroom gravy.
- Sprinkle across a salad for an extra “bam” of flavor.
- Mix into meatloaf or ground meat patties to add an extra depth of flavor without necessarily adding bulk or texture. This is a great way to make your turkey burgers “beefier”.
- Make your own herb/spice blends adding the savory taste of mushroom powder.
Be sure not to add your mushroom powder early in the cooking cycle if you are doing long, slow-cooking dishes. Add the powder at the end of cooking in these dishes.
The higher priced varieties of mushrooms are not necessarily the way to go, Everyday crimini (those little brown ones that look like button mushrooms) work well, too. You can even mix and match your mushrooms for an extra depth of flavor all your own.
Recipes Using Mushroom Powder
Homemade Instant Mushroom Gravy
Adapted from Hunger and Thirst Magazine
1/2 cup dried porcini mushroom powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon powdered sumac (or add a dash of vinegar at the end of cooking)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups cold water
- Mix all of the dry ingredients together thoroughly. You can multiply the batch and divide it into individual bags or jars for storage.
- To make the gravy, combine the dry mix with the cold water in a small pan. Whisk the gravy together, and continue to whisk occasionally as you bring it to a low boil over medium heat. As soon as the gravy boils, it should thicken nicely. No further cooking is necessary.
- Taste the gravy, and adjust the salt if necessary. Serve immediately.
Dry Cream of Mushroom Soup Mix
1 cup dry milk
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup mushroom powder
2 tablespoons chicken or beef bouillon granules
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Mix dry ingredients together. Store in an airtight container, such as a mason jar, shake before using.
To make soup, add 5 Tablespoons mix to 1 cup water, heat over a low flame till thickened, whisking constantly.
VEGAN Dry Cream of Mushroom Soup Mix
Makes about 10 Tablespoons (2 batches worth)
1/2 cup Creamed Coconut, (see notes)
3 tablespoons Potato Starch
2 tablespoons dried mushrooms, crumbled
1 tablespoon veggie broth
1-1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Mix dry ingredients together. Store in an airtight container, such as a mason jar, shake before using.
- To make soup, add 5 Tablespoons mix to 1 cup water, heat over a low flame till thickened, whisking preferably, constantly.
- Creamed coconut is similar to coconut butter and comes in solid bars. Chill the bar, wrapped, for a while. Put on gloves and finely grate. Gently add grated coconut into a mason jar and store sealed (and if in hotter temperatures-above mid 70’s F, store in the refrigerator). This method of grating makes it easy to use, where coconut butter is hard to get out of the jar for your mix.
- Use potato starch if you can’t have cornstarch which is gluten-free as well. Otherwise you can just use arrowroot powder.
My Magic Mushroom Powder Seasoning Blend
2 teaspoons mushroom powder
2/3 cup kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon lemon powder
- Pulse the dried mushrooms in a clean spice grinder until they are finely ground. Transfer the mushroom powder to a bowl and add the salt, red pepper flakes, thyme and pepper. Mix thoroughly to incorporate.
- Store the powder in an airtight container. It will keep for several months.
Sprinkle some of this flavorful dust on anything you cook, adding an earthy taste and aroma to your dishes. I especially love this on omelets, steak, and in cream sauces. For dishes that are long-cooking, add this towards the end of the cooking (about 10 minutes before serving) so as not to mute the flavors of your blend.