Preserving food in oil is a common practice in Europe, especially Italy. Acidified vegetables are submerged in oil and stored in cold environments. The oil keeps out oxygen, staving off spoilage, but also imparts its own flavor and textural compliments to the preserved foods. There is no current USDA recommended method for preserving in oil, but done correctly, it can be safe. Text excerpted from Preserving Italy ©2016 by Domenica Marchetti. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Drive along the mountain roads in Umbria in the fall and you’re likely to come across precariously parked cars, temporarily abandoned by drivers out searching for fresh porcini mushrooms. The meaty mushrooms are perfect for grilling and preserving in oil. If only they weren’t such a rarity—and so prohibitively expensive—here in the United States. The good news is that many supermarkets now stock a good variety of other mushrooms with their own attributes. Look for fat king trumpets and clumps of clamshell mushrooms. Use a mix to give this savory preserve extra visual and textural appeal.
- 2 tablespoons coarse salt (sea salt or kosher salt)
- 2 cups/473 g white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup/110 g olive oil (extra-virgin, plus more as needed)
- 3 strips lemon zest (no white pith)
- 1 small dried chile pepper (crushed, or a generous pinch of crushed red chile pepper)
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 whole black peppercorns
Wash and dry the mushrooms. Separate the beech mushrooms into small clumps. Cut the trumpet mushrooms in half lengthwise. Scrape the gills from the portobellos and cut the portobellos into thick slices.
Place the mushrooms in a bowl and toss gently with the salt. Place a plate on top of the mushrooms and weight it down with a heavy object. Let the mushrooms sit for 1 hour. Drain the mushrooms, spread them on a clean kitchen towel, and pat them dry.
Bring the vinegar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, return to a boil, and boil until they have softened slightly but still have a nice meaty texture, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and spread the mushrooms out on a clean kitchen towel and pat them dry. Let them dry until they are no longer damp, about 2 hours.
Prepare a medium-hot charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to medium-high. To grill inside, preheat a stovetop grill to medium-high. Working carefully and in batches, quickly char the mushrooms on both sides so that they become blackened in spots. Using tongs, transfer them to a bowl and let cool.