"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
About Bayou Bill
Recent Rambles
DNR Doings
Wild Recipes



Fresh Shaggymanes In December?
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

Outside the temperature was well below freezing and clouds that hinted strongly of snow scudded in from the west. A great day to fix some fresh shaggymane mushrooms, I thought, as the door of the frig swung open.

Fresh shaggymanes? You ask: “Where you gonna gettum?”

Actually, the shags I wanted to cook were not all that fresh. Matter of fact, they were more than three weeks old. Anyone who has had hands-on experience with shaggymanes knows that these delightful fungi go over the hill pretty fast once the elongated caps break away from the stems and start to flatten out like parasols (toadstools, if you prefer).

No, they weren’t fresh in the sense that they had just been picked. But they weren’t frozen, nor were they dried. They had been in my frig for more than three weeks because I had picked them a few days before the firearms deer season had opened (November 12). That season had ended November 27 and here it was December 3, a good three weeks after I had picked the shags.

So although the shags could not be considered “fresh,” they were totally free of the black color that is so characteristic of shags that have gone over the hill. And though they weren’t as crisp as shags just picked, they were solid to the touch. 

So how could these shags be fresh and as tasty as if they had been picked that very day?

My recipe (procedure) for frying shaggymanes has been featured in his column with some regularity over the years (about as regularly as shaggymanes appear), so we will suffice it to say they were delightful when parlayed with some smallish steaks fried in the same skillet.

As I see it, this column is about preserving shaggymanes, not necessarily cooking them.

In this column, I have noted, from time to time, that my experiments establish the notion (if not scientific fact) that the caps of shags turn black at their outer (lower) perimeter soon after they break away from the stem. It also seemed that exposure to air causes this change, and that it transforms shag caps into globs of an inky-black paste sitting on top of a stem.

Thus, for several years, when “cleaning” shags, I have removed the outer (lower) perimeter of the caps with the idea that if this portion is not there, it will turn black somewhere else, and that the remainder of the cap will remain white and fresh if it can be kept free of air.

This has worked. I have been successful in keeping shags white (free of the black color) for as long as three months by keeping them totally immersed in water and refrigerated. However, shags kept for lengthy periods--say more than a month--tend to be softened (even mushy) by the water.

The problem with keeping shags in good shape seemed to stem from the fact that no matter what kind of receptacle I used, some air always seemed to creep in and blacken the shags.

Thus, when cleaning this bag of shags (I was pretty sure it would be the last of the year, and I wanted to save them as long as I could), I looked for a narrow, cylindrical receptacle. That turned out to be a clear-plastic vase, roughly three inches in diameter and a foot tall.

With the cleaned shags in the vase, I covered them with cold tap water. The shags came to the surface of the water, but a deep, yellow plastic cup slightly smaller in diameter (with a little water for ballast as a “sort-of” plunger) pushed the shags below the waterline and kept them there.

And they were “fresh” three weeks later.

Click on thumbnail image for enlarged view.

With the cylindrical vase partially filled with cold water, the yellow plastic cup (partially filled with water) keeps wine-bottle corks well below the surface of the water in the vase. Wine-bottle corks are far more bouyant than shaggymane mushrooms.
shagvase.jpg (8202 bytes)

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

 Return to beginning of document
Return to Bayou Bill's Home Page