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Preparing Mushrooms for Cooking

Although you will find fresh mushrooms in the produce and vegetable section of your grocery store, mushrooms are not vegetables. They are used in conjunction with other vegetables, as well as eaten alone. The chances of eating a poisonous mushroom purchased from a grocery store are very rare, since all mushrooms labeled for consumption are grown and cultivated on mushroom farms. Fresh mushrooms can be quite expensive, while canned, cooked mushrooms are a little less expensive. If you plan on adding mushrooms to a stew, you can save money by purchasing the cooked, canned variety. If you plan on using fresh mushrooms for cooking, follow these guidelines for preparing them:

  1. Prepare right away. Prepare mushrooms the day that you buy them. If you allow them to remain in the plastic covered container in which you buy them, or if you store them in a plastic bag, the mushrooms will start to sweat. If you can't use them immediately, store them inside of a paper bag in the refrigerator, and use them within three days of purchase.
  2. Rinse. Open the container and dump the mushrooms into a large colander inside of your kitchen sink. Rinse them thoroughly with cold water, taking care to wet and rinse each mushroom.
  3. Clean. Place a large towel on your kitchen counter and then turn the mushrooms out onto the towel. Using paper towels, remove any remaining dirt from each mushroom, scrubbing them gently. Although some mushroom aficionados state that you should never wash mushrooms, others say that it is okay to do so as long as you do not soak them.
  4. Stemming. Once your mushrooms have been cleaned, remove the stems. Some varieties of mushrooms have very stout stems and you can simply pop them off. Other types of softer mushrooms have soft stems and you can cut them away with a sharp paring knife.
  5. Save the stems and, if they are hard, peel away the outer skin and then you can use the stems as well as the mushrooms caps. Likewise, if the remainder of the mushroom is hard, peel away the outer skin and then use the entire mushroom.

    Once you've cleaned your mushrooms, slice, chop, or dice them and cook according to your recipe's directions. In our house, we love cooked mushrooms. I simply clean and quarter them, place them into a small saucepan with one stick of oleo, and then allow them to simmer until soft brown, yet still a little firm. Mushrooms are delicious and nutty cooked that way.

     

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