Black Trumpet Mushrooms
( horn of plenty, trumpets of death )
Cantharellus cornucopoides / C. fallax / C. cinereus
This dark mysterious stranger of the mushroom world is one of the most delicious of all mushrooms. It’s subtle and seductive “now you see me, now you don’t” appearance belies its forceful almost blue-cheesy flavor. Its almost slippery texture after cooking is very sensual yet this is not the chewy quality that most people expect from mushrooms. Instead of the slices or chunks mushrooms are generally cut into, black trumpets can be pulled apart into elegant long black strips. If desired, these can in turn be cut crossways into small black squares resembling truffles, hence the pet name “poor man’s truffles”.
If a mushroom is going to be nicknamed "poor man's truffle", it may as well pair with simple ingredients to gussy them all up and take them to the dance. Such is the case with several of the recipes you'll find in The Wild Table. "Poor Man's Truffle" Risotto and Black Trumpet Mushroom and Yukon Gold Potato Gratin are two such cases of fairly modest staples transformed into rich, even decadent courses satisfying enough to become meals. A dash of truffle salt wouldn't be gilding the lily, would it?
Cleaning mushrooms begins during harvest in the woods. They should be cut down about an inch above the ground when harvesting. This leaves the rain splashed dirtiest part of the stem behind. Good cleaning is paramount because no mushroom is more prone to having gritty bits in the final cooked dish. Cleaning this mushroom properly is extremely important. At home, there is simply no way to clean the mushroom without pulling or splitting this hollow vase-shaped mushroom open. Rinse the split mushroom under water while rubbing both inside and outside surfaces. Put on a terry towel. Better yet, line a salad spinner with a towel, put the clean wet mushrooms inside and spin dry.
In the East and Mid-West, they appear from late summer through November. In the Western coastal forest zones, they begin in December and can continue as late as April.
This mushroom is just lovely with fish or pasta. It makes an extra fine risotto as well. People are of two minds about cooking this mushroom. Once school finds quick sautéing to be ideal while another crowd prefers slow gentle cooking. You decide.
Black trumpets are one of the very best dried mushrooms. Every pantry should have some. Dried black trumpets and a box of good pasta can provide a delicious meal in a half hour. They dry and reconstitute very quickly and easily. If you have two window screens lay your mushrooms out on one and cover with the screen then place in the sun. Put a weight on the edges. You need the second screen on top to prevent the mushrooms from blowing away. They can dry that quickly. The Wild Table has a great recipe for black trumpet tapenade. This has no end of uses for slathering on meats, rice and bread and Lord knows what else. Our Wine Forest premium Dried Black Trumpet Mushrooms are sold in three sizes in our online retail pantry store.
Fresh black trumpets have an extraordinary shelf life. Keep them in an open container covered with a damp towel. Don’t let them dry out or they become grey, dry, and brittle. Don't be surprised to find them in great shape even three weeks after harvest if you duplicate my strange experiments in storage.