A few years ago, I was talking with my friend Pina about what we had planned to cook for our families that week; we both love to cook and Pina loves to bake (she is a much better baker than I am)! I can’t remember exactly what we were both making for dinner that night but I do remember that we both thought each others recipes sounded delicious. “Why don’t we each make a double batch and drop off some new things for each others families to try tomorrow,” Pina said. And just then, our unexpected “home cooked food exchange” was born. Since then, a few times a month, we love to get/give yummy gifts of food to each other. It’s so much fun to see what other families are cooking and baking and it makes us feel very 1950’s suburban housewives in our NYC concrete jungle!
Fast forward to just a few weeks ago, Pina dropped off a jar of pickled mushrooms to me; I happen to adore mushrooms and eat them as much as possible to get in my Vitamin D (they are a great non-animal source of Vitamin D), fiber, protein and antioxidants! I love, love, love, pickled veggies but unfortunately, I cannot not eat them. Most pickled vegetables are way too high in sodium and as you know I have suffered from high blood pressure since I was 12 years old.So, as you can imagine when Pina dropped off these mushrooms, I was dying to eat them. Honestly, pickled anything is something I have missed so much over the years. I had to call her right away to see if she added salt to the recipe- she assured me just a pinch of sea salt. I was ecstatic and dove right in, literally almost headfirst, as I could not get out of the container! The burst of flavor that hit me when I tried the pickled mushrooms was astounding, so so delish, beyond anything I have tasted in so many years! They were pickled yet not salty at all and they had a little bit of heat from the fresh garlic and red pepper flakes; so much flavor in one little pickled vegetable (I do love my very intense savory foods as you all know!). A confession, the first thing I did when I pulled myself away from the jar was hide them from my family; I wanted them all to myself. As the guilt sunk in, and I was nearing the end of the jar, I confessed and told my husband Jonathan what I had been hiding. I gave him my last mushroom and he was hooked! He could not believe how incredible these mushrooms were and I was for sure still in disbelief. I called Pina right away and basically interrogated her. I have been yearning, pining, dying for pickled vegetables for the past 42 years (that right I am 54) and now you make this for me??? I needed more! Pina said, “Come on J (she calls me J), let’s go shopping for mushrooms (and peppers as I was missing jarred peppers as well) and I’ll teach how how to pickle veggies that even you can eat.” The next Saturday, we went to Trader Joes and I was a beast – I bought 20 containers of mushrooms (I halved the recipe for you below, but remember the mushrooms shrink a lot)! Shopping with a friend was so much fun, we did not stop laughing – an added bonus of a homemade food exchange.
We arrived at Pina’s house with 20 containers of mushrooms, a very large jug of white vinegar, oregano, red pepper flakes, extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic and four empty jam jars with lids for storing. This pickled mushroom recipe was passed down from Pina’s mother’s, she’s Italian and man can she cook! I am forever grateful for what she taught Pina that now she can teach me! We made a day of it, cooking, laughing, eating and drinking espressos to keep us going. It was more fun than I have had in a long time and just made me really happy. There’s something about a friend inviting you into their kitchen and sharing a family recipe with you that sure makes you feel special!
I got to bring home the fruits (or veggies) of our labor to my family later that evening and they could not stop eating them! My son Ellis grabs them from the fridge everyday just to eat a few on their own as he loves them so much, I add them daily to my very large salads at lunch and at night Jonathan eats them with his dinner. I am telling you, my salads will never be the same! I even think I am going to add them to a charcuterie board that I’m making over the weekend to change it up a bit and I know that no one will be disappointed about that! I would even imagine that Pina and I may have a few jobs lined up teaching more of our friends how to healthfully pickle delectable vegetables in our future.
Today, I didn’t want to just share with you these beloved pickled mushrooms and Pina’s recipe but also the idea of perhaps hosting a homemade food exchange with the friends you have in your life. What a simple pleasure it was to spend a day in the kitchen of my dear friend Pina sharing stories of her mom and her recipes, kitchen tips and tricks of the trade. I hope you’ll make these pickled mushrooms and love them but I really hope you’ll make them for a friend and share in the experience together. XX Janine
Pickled Mushrooms: My Favorite Home Cooked Food Exchange to Date
Ingredients: Makes 2-3 jars (each jar is about 13 oz). I use jam jars, but any will work.3-4 pounds of white mushrooms (they seriously shrink – double the recipe if you want more) 2 cups olive oil 1 large jug of Distilled White Vinegar (64 oz) (I used 2 1//2 cups for this recipe) 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes 4 cloves fresh garlic – each clove sliced into 4 pieces 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional) it’s great without salt too!
Put all the mushrooms in a colander in the sink and wash off all the dirt – rubbing the mushrooms while the water is washing them.When all the mushrooms are clean (they do not need to be dry) slice off a little bit of the cap. Using a very large sauce pan add 2 1/2 cups of vinegar, all the mushrooms and seal with a lid. Bring the mushrooms to a boil then quickly reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Take the mushrooms off the heat and pour them into a colander in the sink to drain. When they have cooled off, place all the mushrooms in a regular dish towel and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible over the sink. The mushrooms will change their shape but will still be delish! Place the mushrooms in a large mixing bowl, add the olive oil, oregano, red pepper flakes, sliced garlic – mix well. With a large spoon carefully divide up the mushrooms into each jar, making sure that each jar gets some of the garlic as well. Top up each jar with more vinegar (2 tablespoons) to seal in the mushrooms. Let the jars cool off on the counter for a few hours then store them in the refrigerator. The jars can last for months but I promise you they will be eaten within a few weeks or maybe even days!