Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shiitake Mushroom

I have been growing Shiitake mushrooms for close to 20 years. I was introduced to them by a friend who had seen a presentation on non-timber forest products. There were a lot of ideas floating around back then like ginseng cultivation, band saw mills, mushroom cultivation, Christmas tree growing and the like. We tried most of them and some of them took off
and were quite successful. I tried ginseng cultivation but the deer seemed to like them better than me.

Shiitake cultivation is relatively simple, uses readily available material, ( oak logs)
and continue to produce long after you inocculate the logs.

The basic process involves a few steps, harvesting the logs, inoculating the logs, letting the logs lay, and eventualy harvesting the mushrooms!

The links above take you to a series of videos showing the process of growing and harvesting your own mushrooms.

It is the final step that takes the most patience and the least physical effort.
From harvesting the logs to first harvesting the mushrooms will take at least 18 months.
I keep them in a shady forested spot this is my " laying yard"

However once the logs have been inoculated they will continue to produce two crops, spring and fall, for up to 10 years.

I hve been purchasing my spawn ( the source of the mushrooms) from the same people for the entire time. The results have been good without fail.

Their web site is
and the kits can be found here .

I prefer to saute the mushrooms in butter with finely chopped spring onion, orif I have too many at once I will dry them in the oven with the light on and rehydrate them later.

They are also excellent in mushroom soup or chicken soup with mushrooms that I am making right now.

What you can expect is a fleshy mushroom with a subtle garlicy after taste. The flavour is subtle and delicious, don't over season less is more.

I was able to harvest 3 pounds this first time for these logs.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Butter Tart Episode

It's funny how you can not know you are missing something and then it just hits you. " Hey what about those butter tarts!" "I used to love those, hot, cold, frozen from the freezer, where can I find some". So started a quest that took more time than it should have and resulted in an unexpected cultural exploration.
It turns out that butter tarts are a Canadian specialty, like so many things cobbled together from easily preserved ingredients like butter, sugar and raisins. These items are the culinary equivalent of duct tape and long before anyone had thought of Mc Giver, mothers from coast to coast were in the kitchen performing their culinary alchemy.

It's not that we didn't have fridges or fruit trucked in from California in the middle of winter, it was the fact that our mother's mothers didn't have access to these and they set the gold standard for treats and dainties.

No tea party or bake sale would be complete without a full array of exotic sweets like matrimonial cake, marshmallow bars, raisin tarts and
butter tarts. All of these basically consisted of canned or dried fruit, flower, sugar and butter.
All these ingredients were available to the pioneer and with a good recipe and a hot oven they could be melded into something glorious.

I was able to get several variations on the basic recipe, the one I have posted is my mothers original recipe. I did reduce the amount of nut meg to a pinch and the same for the salt.
Use unsalted butter and watch the time to cook as you just want the tart shell to brown.
You will burn them if you follow the instructions in the recipe 450 is too hot.
I didn't tackle the pastry recipe and used a pre made pie dough rolled thin and cut into muffin liners in a muffin pan. This worked OK but I would recommend trying to make your own pastry as it was a bit dense and not at all flakey. You can't get the frozen preformed kind here.

The filling was great and I used one whole egg and one egg white with good results.
I didn't know this was a cross Canada obsession but apparently it made the CBC back in 1991.
Click on the CBC logo to be transported back in time.

Enjoy these with your tea and a side of Peter Gzowski.