Fresh mushrooms add a touch of class and flavour to a wide range of dishes, from topping steaks and burgers to serving as a meat substitute in vegetarian meals. The variety of mushrooms on the market today goes far beyond the simple button mushrooms of the past. Mushrooms are eaten raw, boiled, sautéed or simply tossed into soups and stews. Fresh mushrooms are available at your local grocery store, health food stores and farmer's markets.
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Touch and feel the mushrooms. They should be dry to the touch. Slimy, shrivelled mushrooms have passed their useful life.
Smell the mushrooms. Fresh mushrooms have an earthy, musky smell. An ammonia smell indicates the mushrooms are no longer fresh.
Determine when you purchased the mushrooms. Mushrooms more than a week old have probably lost much of their flavour for use as a fresh ingredient, but provided they are still in good shape can be used in soups and stews.
Tips and warnings
- To help fresh mushrooms stay fresh longer, remove from original packaging and store in the refrigerator in a brown paper sack.
- Do not clean mushrooms until you use them. Brush away dirt with a soft pastry brush. Use water only if necessary. While water does not affect the flavour of the mushrooms, it can affect the texture and appearance as the mushrooms absorb moisture as you wash them.
- If fresh mushrooms are approaching the end of their shelf life, sauté them in a small amount of butter and freeze for later use in soups, stews and sauces. For a recipe calling for canned mushrooms, substitute an equal amount of these frozen mushrooms.
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