Sunday, May 1, 2016

How to Pickle Mushrooms

I was enjoying the book Dining with William Shakespeare by Madge Lorwin, which I wrote about in a previous post, "My Salmon is Soused..." when I came across (on page 18) a recipe called "How to Pickle Mushrooms."  

The original recipe was cited as from William Rabisha's The whole Body of Cookery Dissected.

Actually the full title of the book is The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected, Taught and Fully Manifested, Methodically, Artificially, and According to the Best Tradition of the English, French, Italian, Dutch, &c., Or, A Sympathy of All Varieties in Natural Compounds in that Mysterie, which amuses me to no end.  I think today we would use the word "artfully" instead of "artificially".  

You can download a PDF of this book consisting of scanned images at

Image taken from the Library of Congress Rare Books Collection
This is the 1673 edition.  The first edition arrived in 1661 and four more editions were published over the next 20 years.  You can purchase facsimile print copies, mostly of the 1682 edition.  Once I had downloaded the Library of Congress file of the 1673 version, I found the recipe on page 2 of Book I, right after "How to Pickle Cowcumbers."

Mr. Rabisha presents himself as a person who was raised right and was trained in the art of cooking. He was a master cook in England and in foreign places to ambassadors and nobles alike.  He wished to share his "small endeavors" with the public in hopes of assisting the young "Practitioners" of the art.

What I really love is the poem "In Commendation of the Author" (first stanza):

Cooks burn your Books, and vail your empty brains; 
Put off your feigned Aprons, view the strains
Of this new piece, whose Author doth display
The bravest dish, and shew the nearest way
T' inform the lowest Cook how he may dress,
And make the meanest meat the highest mess;
To please the Fancy of the daintiest Dame,
And sute her palate that she may praise the same.
Give him return of worth, (besides due wages)
And recommend his book to future ages.
Let it be know Rabisha here hath hit,
The fairest passage that hath dared it.
     But read his Book, and judge his Pains,
     His is the labour, yours the gains.

This poem goes on for two pages, describing the contents of the different parts (books) and the high quality of the recipes.

So let us take advantage of William Rabisha's labours and see what gains we get.

How to Pickle Mushrooms

Original version:

Take a bushell of Mushrooms, blanch them over the crown, barm them beneath; if they are new, they look red as a Cherry; if old, black; this being done, through them into a pan of boyling water, then take them forth and let them drain; when they are cold, put them up into your Pot or Glass, puth thereto Cloves, Mace, Ginger, Nutmeggs, whole Pepper; Then take white wine, a little Vinegar, with a little quantity of salt, so pour the Liquour into your Mushrooms, and stope them close for your use all the year.

Ms. Lorwin's "working version":

1/2 pound fresh young mushrooms, about 1 inch in diameter
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon peppercorns
2 cloves
1 large piece of whole mace
1 thin slice fresh ginger
1/2 nutmeg, broken up
3/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon vinegar

Wash the mushrooms under cool running water.  Slice off the stems to within 1/2 inch of the caps.  Put the water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the mushrooms into a saucepan and bring to a rapid boil.  Drain the mushrooms immediately and put them into a half-pint, screw-top jar with the spices and the rest of the salt.  Pour the wine and the vinegar over them--if there is not enough liquid to cover the mushrooms, add more wine vinegar.

Cover the jar with a piece of plastic before screwing on the top--otherwise the vinegar will corrode the metal.  Turn the jar upside down several times to distribute the seasonings.  Store in a cool place (but do not refrigerate) for three or four days before using.

My Notes

I couldn't get all small mushrooms but instead halved or quartered the ones I could get.

I used cubebs instead of peppercorns because I could.  I don't have whole mace so I used 1/4 teaspoon of ground mace.  Instead of fresh ginger I used one large slice (halved) of candied ginger.  I used a dry Chardonnay and apple cider vinegar.

The spices
I called it a "rapid boil" when the water was foaming around the mushrooms.

It truly seemed like the mushrooms wouldn't fit in a half pint jar, so I cleaned and microwave-sterilized a pint jar.  This was too big and I hoped the extra air in the jar wouldn't make difference in the flavor.

It didn't seem like the amount of liquid called for was enough so I added some more cider vinegar.  It might have been too much because the mushrooms started floating above the bottom of the jar.

It filled more than half of the jar
Overall the preparation was very easy and I would be willing to do it again and in greater quantities. Assuming it tastes good!

The finished jar was labeled and placed in a storage cupboard for a few days.

The Verdict

We waited four days to taste the mushrooms.  All three of us enjoyed it.  I didn't put in too much cider vinegar after all, although I think it would still taste fine without as much.  If I do this again, I think I will just barely blanch the mushrooms -- they were cooked more than I thought they would be.

Overall, the taste was slightly sour from the vinegar, a little sweet (from the wine?  from the candied ginger?), and the spices were present and interesting but not particularly dominant.  Just right, I would say.


Ms. Lorwin notes that
Pickled mushrooms were used as "salad" appetizers both when mushrooms were in season and during the cold months to add some zest to usually heavy meals.
Sounds good to me!

I would like to close with the final few lines of the "In Commendation of the Author" poem:

Therefore brave Book, into the world be gone,
Thou vindicates thy Author; fearing none
That ever was, or is, or e're shall be,
Able to find the parallel to thee.

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