Unless you intend to head to the farmer’s market, or local specialty store every time you want to make a mushroom dish, you need to find a proper way to preserve mushrooms for the long term.
This is especially true for seasonal and hard to find mushroom varieties like the elusive morel or tantalizing truffle. When you do find these mushrooms, it’s always a good idea to stock up on them since it might be a while before you come across them again.
One common question that many mushroom lovers everywhere ask is – Can I freeze mushrooms? The short answer is – yes, you can. But, there’s a way to do it.
This article takes an in-depth look at everything you need to know about freezing mushrooms the right way.
How to Freeze Mushrooms Properly – A Few Basics
At the risk of stating the obvious, if you intend to stock up on mushrooms, make sure that you get the freshest ones you can find. You are, after all, planning to store them for a long time.
The best candidates for freezing should not only look fresh; they should smell fresh as well. Steer clear of any that look dried-up or shriveled. You also don’t want to freeze any that look like they have dark spots or a noticeable odor.
They should smell musky, and only when you put them right up to your nose. So, if you open the bag and a cringe-worthy odor hits you, not only should you not freeze them, you need to toss them in the garbage.
Regardless of the freezing method you choose, you need to clean the mushrooms first. But don’t use water to do it. What you need to do instead is to use a mushroom brush or a soft pastry brush to remove any visible dirt from the surface. Do this gently to prevent them from breaking apart.
Can I Freeze Mushrooms Raw?
Now, let’s get to the question of freezing mushrooms in their raw form. The answer is, yes, you an.
But remember that fresh mushrooms contain loads of moisture. It’s their porous bodies that make them such water magnets. If you freeze them raw, without first dehydrating them, you’ll end up with soggy mushrooms, with a less-than-ideal texture once you thaw them.
So yes, you can get away freezing raw mushroom and then using them in a stew, soup, or casserole. They’ll be okay, just not great.
It is the quickest and easiest method though. All you need to do is place them on a parchment-lined tray and pop them in the freezer to freeze each of them individually. Once the mushrooms are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or an airtight freezer container.
Freezing Cooked Mushrooms
The ideal way to freeze mushrooms is to cook them first. This extends the shelf life of edible mushrooms and they will thaw with better flavor and texture than if you freeze them raw.
The two main cooking methods you can use to prepare them for freezing are blanching and sautéing.
Keep in mind, though, that the color and texture of the mushrooms, once thawed, will be different from how they look in their original uncooked state. They tend to become a lot softer and darker in color.
There are two ways to freeze your mushrooms before cooking them: blanching, and sautéing.
Blanching Using Steam
Begin by sorting the mushrooms according to their size. The larger pieces will need to be steamed for longer than the smaller ones. If some of the individual pieces measure more than an inch in thickness, you’ll need to slice them in half or in thirds depending on how thick they are.
If you want your mushrooms to retain their original color and not darken during the blanching process, here’s a pro tip:
Mix one and a half teaspoons of citric acid and the juice of half a lemon in 1 pint of water. Soak the mushrooms in this solution for five minutes before blanching them.
For the blanching phase of the process, place similar-sized mushrooms in a steamer basket, and place the basket over boiling water. Leave about three inches of space between the bottom part of the steamer basket and the surface of the boiling water.
The rule of thumb is to steam:
- Whole mushrooms for 5 minutes
- Those that are the size of a button mushroom for 3½ to 4 minutes
- Those sliced into half for 3½ minutes
- Those cut into thirds for 3 minutes
Once the mushrooms have been steamed for the right amount of time, transfer them into an ice bath and let them soak for the same amount of time as they spent steaming. Then, strain the mushrooms and place them in freezer bags or airtight containers, before popping them in the freezer. They’ll keep for up to a year in this form.
Alternatively, you can sauté your mushrooms before freezing. All you have to do is cook them like you would any ordinary sautéed mushroom dish. But, instead of eating the mushrooms, you pop them into the freezer. Here’s how you do it.
Heat a little oil and butter in a skillet, then add some minced garlic. Once it is fragrant, add the mushrooms and stir to make sure they’re all coated with the butter. Spread them out on the skillet in a single layer and let them cook undisturbed for four minutes until all the liquid they release evaporates.
Season lightly with salt, pepper, herbs, or any other seasoning you would want to incorporate. Don’t cook them through, though.
Take them off the heat, let them cool down, place them on a parchment-lined tray, and pop them in the freezer. Once they’re frozen solid, transfer them to an airtight freezer container. You’ll be able to store them for up to nine months, and they’ll still retain their original flavor and texture.
A Simple Solution for Long Term Storage
Can I freeze mushrooms? You now know the answer to that, don’t you? When you need to use them, don’t thaw them in advance. Just take them out of the freezer and add them in at the point where the recipe calls for them.
The heat from whatever you’ll be making will thaw them without overcooking them. Moreover, if you want to save on freezer real estate, consider drying them instead, and then freezing them. Find out how to dry mushrooms properly before you do.