The mushroom has always been one of the most popular foods in culinary circles around the world. Porcini mushrooms in particular are one of the most loved species by Italians that cannot be missed on the tables in the autumn period. Let’s discover together its main characteristics and all the tips and trivia you need to know about the King of Mushrooms..
The name “Porcino” refers to some varieties of edible mushrooms of the Boletus genus, 4 to be precise.
The bulky, almost circular cap is definitely their distinguishing feature and can reach a diameter of 30 centimeters in the largest specimens. The color varies from light brown to brown depending on the environment from which it comes, while the part under the cap the whiter it is, the younger the mushroom. The sturdy whitish stem widens as it descends to the underside, and its compact flesh does not change color after being cut.
WHERE DO THEY GROW?
The ideal habitat of porcini mushrooms is wooded, at an altitude that is not too low, preferably under oaks, beech and chestnut trees. Porcini first appear in spring, between May and June, but their maximum occurrence is between the months of September and October, corresponding to the first autumn rains.
Particularly in our Tuscany, starting in September, porcini can be found practically everywhere, from the coast to the mountains; while in October to look for them one usually moves to the hills, which have soil suitable for maintaining the ideal temperature for their growth.
The extremely engaging experience of “going for mushrooms” is not as simple as it might seem. In addition to adhering to strict rules about where to look and tools to use, it is necessary to have a collecting permit issued by the Tuscany Region, which also decides the maximum daily amount that those authorized can collect.
Warning, however. It is always inadvisable to collect mushrooms of any species if you are not a minimum expert in the subject. In fact, even our porcino has super toxic doubles if ingested.
Therefore, it is most important to know the main and unmistakable characteristics such as color, shape, and veining, in this case of porcini, for better and safer harvesting.
HOW TO CLEAN THEM?
To enjoy the flavor of porcini to the fullest, it is essential to learn how to recognize good specimens and clean them properly. First, in fact, the intense aroma and the firmness of the stem and cap give us confirmation of quality. On the contrary, if the mushroom looks wrinkled, dry and rather light, it means that the water it contained has evaporated and consequently it is an old specimen.
For proper cleaning, complete removal of the soil is essential. From the base, one scrapes with a small knife and, if necessary, shortens the stem. Next, a very soft bristle brush or damp cloth is passed over the cap. Be careful, however: because of the high porosity of mushrooms, it is forbidden to soak them, so as not to spoil their cooking phase, during which they would release too much water. Therefore, if the soil should still be well anchored to the mushroom after the cleaning stage you can rinse it under a trickle of water to remove the excess, but very quickly.
HOW DO THEY STORE?
Given their rather short “life”, they can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. To keep them longer, it is necessary to dry or freeze them.
WHAT ARE THE BEST PAIRINGS?
An element as versatile as the countless preparations that can be created with it, porcini is perfect for many different recipes, from appetizers to desserts.
Starting with the basics, porcini eaten in the form of carpaccio, raw with a drizzle of oil, are simplicity made flat and a crunchy treat for the palate. Grilled, trifoliated, pan-fried or baked, they are an excellent side dish for our dogs and traditional dishes such as hot polenta.
Irreplaceable and timeless with classic risotto, with fresh pasta and, without a doubt, on pizza. But still stuffed, used as a filling for savory crepes together with a creamy béchamel sauce, or together with a potato casserole.
And you may be surprised to learn that porcini are also used in the preparation of some desserts; the experimental cooking strand creates innovative dishes and combines the mushroom with mousse and chocolate, or even creating a new flavor of ice cream with it, as unusual as it is a winner for its sweet and salty contrast.
Now that you know the basics and the most important tips about porcini, put on a kitchen apron, experiment and find your favorite pairings for the King of Mushrooms!
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