Drying is one of the most effective ways to preserve mushrooms. Most varieties of mushrooms keep their flavor, texture, and medicinal properties if dried. There are many ways to dry your mushrooms, most notably with a food dehydrator or simply air drying them! Oven drying is also possible, but may degrade their quality.
Preparing Mushrooms for Dehydration
- Wash Them Well – Remove any dirt, leaf litter, and other organic components. Using water will slow down the drying process but will not alter their flavor.
- Cut Into Pieces – This will help speed the drying process. Thin slices are recommended and easiest to dry. This may not be necessary with small mushrooms.
Using a Food Dehydrator
This is by far the best method to dry your mushrooms. You can buy them for less than $50 if you get a good deal. I got mine for $40 on Craigslist. I recommend finding one with different temperature settings. Mushrooms need the lowest temperature possible to best preserve their properties.
- Place Mushrooms On The Dehydration Rack – Make sure mushroom pieces are not on top of each other. Also that there is a bit of space between them. Fill as many racks as necessary.
- Turn Dehydrator On – Keep it in the lowest setting and wait for the sweet mushroom aroma to fill the air!
- Be Patient – It will take anywhere between 4 to 12 hours before your mushrooms are dry. Adding any new material will further delay the process.
- Check For Dryness – You know your mushrooms are well dried when they are crispy like a cracker. Only once all your mushrooms pass this test should you store them.
Air and Sun Drying
This method works best in dry or semi-dry climates. Trying to air-dry in humid climates can be difficult but it is possible. There are several tips you can follow to greatly improve your results.
Tips for Air drying Mushrooms
- Place Them In The Sun – This speeds the drying process and increases Vitamin D! Make sure to put them under a roof if there is a threat of rain. This may be your only option in humid climates.
- Choose the Right Surface – Your best bet is using a meshed net, screen, or rack that permits airflow. Another good option is cardboard. Alternatively, string your mushrooms with a needle and make a “necklace”. Hang this where ever you determine to be best for drying.
- Use A Fan – Place a fan near your drying setup. Place it far enough that it is only a slight breeze. Too close or strong and your mushrooms can blow away. Keep in mind they may lose up to 80 percent of their weight once dry!
- Flip Them – If you notice they are not drying evenly, flip them every couple of hours.
- Keep Them Near Heating – If you are using heating in your home this may be enough to properly dry them. Placing them near your heater, chimney, or wood-burning stove can do wonders.
- Don’t Wait Too Long! – If you notice this method isn’t working after a couple of days or a week, you may want to try something else. Mold and other microorganisms could begin growing on your mushrooms and spoil them!
Drying Mushrooms in the Oven
While this is not the best method, it is one many people attempt. The largest issue with this method is that the lowest oven temperatures are usually too high. Exposing your mushrooms to high heat may degrade their quality. This method is also not energy efficient.
- Preheat Your Oven To Its Minimum Temperature – This is around 200F. Bake setting is good.
- Place Your Mushrooms – Either put them on a metal tray or a silicone baking pad. Make sure they are not touching and place them in the middle oven rack. If necessary use multiple trays.
- Open Oven Door Every 15 Minutes – This will allow excess humidity to escape. After about an hour or two they may start drying. Once they are almost complete you can leave the oven on with the door slightly open.
- Wait Until They Are Dry – Once they are crispy you know they are dry. Make sure they are all completely dry before storing!
Storing your Mushrooms after Drying
It is important to properly store your dried mushrooms. This is particularly true if you want to preserve them for a long time. Improperly stored dry mushrooms may spoil.
- Use An Air Tight Container – Dried mushrooms can absorb humidity from the air and become moist. For this reason, you want to use a jar or another container with a seal. You can also achieve this with vacuum sealing.
- Use a Desiccant – These are the small patches that are often found in Beef Jerky packages. You can also use rice wrapped in napkins or breathable fabric. Baking Epsom Salt at 250F for 2 hours will also transform it into a powerful desiccant. Placing desiccants in your container will help absorb any moisture that may enter.
- Avoid Opening Your Container – Frequent opening of the jar can result in your mushrooms reabsorbing air moisture.
- Dehydrate Again If Necessary – If your mushrooms become moist you may want to dehydrate them again. This may be as easy as placing the containers in the sun without a lid for a couple of hours.
- Keep An Eye Out For Mold or Moisture! – If you haven’t stored your mushroom properly it may start to grow mold. Another sign of improper storage is if you see condensation on the sides of the jar during cold weather.
How to use dry Mushrooms
Place them in freshly boiled water for about 30 minutes. After this, they are ready for use. Make sure to use the broth leftover afterward. This is often the best part!