Fresh mushrooms have flavor that is head and shoulders over the supermarket variety, but they do not come pre-cleaned, and depending upon the variety, can be quite dirty. The best first step in cleaning mushrooms is to avoid getting them dirty in the first place. Keeping a sharp knife and soft brush in your mushroom hunting kit for removing the heaviest debris while you are still in the woods goes a long way toward reducing that chore at home.
Remove the mushrooms from the bag (preferably a net bag so that excess dirt can drop off as you walk), brushing each one with a soft natural bristle brush as it is removed.
Examine the mushrooms for insects and any obvious damage, which should be trimmed away with a sharp knife.
Place mushrooms in a bowl big enough to hold the mushrooms at least 1 inch below the surface, and fill the bowl with water in which a teaspoon of salt has been dissolved.
Let mushrooms soak for at least 20 minutes, but no more than an hour or they may become water-logged. This will cause any smaller, hidden insects to come to the surface, where they may be skimmed off.
Drain mushrooms. Rinse and spread on a clean towel to dry.
Cut mushrooms into thin slices about ¼ inch thick for drying and spread on dehydrator trays. Dry on medium low heat until crisp. Store in jars with tight lids or resealable plastic bags until needed. Rehydrate in a small amount of water or soup stock before using in your favorite recipes.
Dip mushrooms briefly (only a few seconds each) in boiling water to stop bacterial action that will lead to decay. Dry on towels as before and place in freezer bags to freeze until needed as an alternative to drying or fresh eating.
Prepare fresh mushrooms for eating by sauteing in butter in a hot skillet over medium heat. Add garlic or onions if desired and season to taste. Eat as-is over crackers or toast, or use as a topping over scrambled eggs or added to other dishes, requiring canned or cooked mushrooms.
About this Author
Deborah Stephenson is a freelance writer and artist, who brings over 25 years of both professional and life experience to her writings. Stephenson features a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She is an anthropologist & naturalist, and has published a field guide on Michigan's flora & fauna as well as numerous political and environmental articles.