Italian Marinated Mushrooms
July 18, 2016 | Updated June 02, 2020
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Funghi sott’olio. So much more than just an Italian version of marinated mushrooms.
I’ve eaten these as part of an antipasti plate since I was a kid. Standard marinated mushrooms, let’s face it, can be slippery and even rubbery. Not a great texture. But these are meaty, chewy and just a shade funky — mushroomy in all the best ways.
I never really knew exactly how the Italians did it until I read Rosetta Costantino’s My Calabria. In it, Costantino reveals her family’s method for preserving mushrooms in oil, and when I read her recipe, I was immediately struck by how similar it is to a Sicilian technique I use every year when I have too much zucchini. Makes sense, as Calabria is only a few miles from Sicily.
Basically you need to remove water from the mushrooms, then boil them in vinegar, then dry them out a bit before submerging in oil. It is a method I’ve seen done with a lot of foods, even meat on occasion. What this particular do-si-do of preservation does is first use salt to pull the existing water from the food.
Once the food is reasonably dry, acidify it with vinegar — bad bugs find it tough to survive in low Ph environments. Finally, keep air (and molds) off the food by submerging it in olive oil.
You should know there is no official USDA protocol for this method of preservation. Costantino tried to get the government to give its vaguely papal gesture for her recipe, but they declined. Suffice to say it works: The Italians have been doing it for centuries, if not millennia.
I tested this method with five kinds of mushrooms: button mushrooms, hedgehog mushrooms, chanterelles, lobster mushrooms and porcini. You need a meaty mushroom to begin with or this method will not work.
Other species that make good marinated mushrooms are blewits, pig’s ears (Gomphus clavatus), shiitake, matsutake, king trumpet mushrooms, and maybe chicken of the woods. Bottom line: The mushroom needs a little heft.
That’s why porcini and their boletus cousins are the ideal. Try this with a leccinum or a birch bolete and you’ll transform a mediocre mushroom into something special.
A few pointers to start:
- Wash your mushrooms and trim any bad spots. Be sure the mushrooms are not wormy.
- Use high quality ingredients: Good olive oil, sea salt, quality vinegar, good lemons. You can definitely taste the difference.
- Store your mushrooms in glass containers, in the fridge. It is entirely probable that they are shelf stable, but I am not a fan of botulism, so I keep mine in the refrigerator.
The recipe that follows is approximate. You may need more or less of the ingredients to fit your containers. One tip: Start with more mushrooms than you think you need. They shrink a lot in this process, and are so good you will run out long before you’re tired of eating them.
Italian Marinated Mushrooms
- 3 to 4 pounds meaty mushrooms
- 1 quart white vinegar or cider vinegar
- Kosher salt or pure sea salt, finely ground
- Zest of a lemon, sliced into wide strips
- 4 dried hot chiles, split lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Cut the mushrooms into reasonable pieces. With small mushrooms, like a button mushroom, you need only cut them in half, and you can leave the smaller ones whole. With large chanterelles and porcini, cut them into 1/2 inch thick slices. They will shrink a lot in this process, and they will be pliable, so they can be a little larger than you'd think they ought to be.
- Salt them well. Lay down a layer of salt on a sheet tray and place the mushrooms on it. If the mushroom has a flat side, i.e., a button mushroom sliced in half, lay the flat side down against the salt. Sprinkle a heavy layer of salt over the tops of all the mushrooms.
- Let this stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. You will notice a lot of water coming out of the mushrooms. This is good. Note that I have left the "sponge" on the porcini in the pictures. I no longer do this because the sponge gets really slimy and icky in this process, and tends to stick to everything. Better to remove the sponge and dry it. It makes great porcini powder.
- Put the mushrooms between paper towels and gently squeeze them a bit to remove a little more water.
- Boil them in the vinegar for five minutes; you might need more vinegar than a quart, but it should get you started. The mushrooms will want to float. Use tongs or something to submerge them as much as you can. Fish out the mushrooms and put them between paper towels again and gently squeeze them to remove some of the vinegar.
- Lay the mushrooms on a clean cloth to dry. Let them air dry until they are no longer damp, but still pliable. Don't let them dry out into leather. Turn the mushrooms once or twice during this time. This will take between 12 to 24 hours, depending on how dry it is in your house and how much air circulation you have going. You can also use a dehydrator to speed up the process, but keep an eye on it: Mushrooms can go from perfect to leather in a hurry if you're not careful!
- Add the seasonings. Put the oil, lemon zest, oregano and chile in a bowl and toss the mushrooms in them. Pack this into glass jars. Use a chopstick or some other kind of clean stick to poke around the jar -- you want to find and remove as many air bubbles as possible. Make sure the mushrooms are submerged in the oil. Refrigerate and wait at least a week before eating. These mushrooms will keep in the fridge for 6 months.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Hi, I’ve followed your instructions for preserving ceps in oil and it seems to have worked but I don’t really like the texture when eating them as they are and just wondering if it’s ok to cook them with pasta or on pizza… Any suggestions please? Thanks, Simon
Simon: Yes, you can absolutely cook them after this process.
Do I need to keep them in the fridge or can they stay in a shelv?
How long do they last?
Luki: I keep them in the fridge, and I’ve had them be OK for a year there.
Trying this recipe for the first time after pulling a truckload of porcini out of the mountains last weekend. Question: do you ever do anything with all the salt and vinegar left at the end of this process? I’m saving it hoping it has at least a little mushroom flavor; I put the salt on a cookie sheet to dry out and maybe I could use the vinegar to pickle some mushies from another haul this year?
Emily: Yes, I do. I strain the vinegar and keep it for salads, etc. Label it Porcini Vinegar. And, I reuse it year after year, adding some fresh vinegar each year. It just gets better.
I make several pints of these each fall. I eat them all up before the following mushroom season on appetizer plates. SO DELICIOUS! First time I did the recipe I used only Gomphus clavatus. Since then I’ve done a medley of puff balls, boletes, lactarius deliciosus, and Gomphus clavatus. An excellent way to preserve mushrooms that guests will enjoy.
Is it normal for the oil to solidify in the fridge? Just warm to room temp for serving?
Wendy: Yes, completely normal. And yep, just warm to room temp when serving.
I made a 2.5 lb. batch of maitake mostly according to this recipe except left in salt about 3 hrs. They turned out way too salty and too lemony. The mushroom flavor is lost. Is it good to put a lemon zest piece into each 16 oz. jar? Is it best to leave salted no more than 1 hr? Is there a recommended amount of salt to use per lb. of mushrooms? Would love to get this right. I’ll update as I’m experimenting.
I make this recipe with maitake whenever I find some. (I’m working on a batch this afternoon, in fact.) I don’t usually leave them in the salt for more than two hours. I keep the ‘fronds’ rather large — I don’t break them into small pieces. When they’re ready to come out of the salt, you can brush or wipe off excess. Sometimes the mushrooms are already pretty dry, and you’ll get kind of a salt crust. I wipe that right off. For a 16 oz. jar, sure, use less lemon zest if you like; it’s a matter of your personal taste. Good luck!
I made these 2 weeks ago and they turned out just beautiful. Used King Oyster mushrooms. I am usually gifted gorgeous wild mushrooms from a family forager in Maine…they will be great in this recipe come time this year.
Fantastico Hank! Italians love you.Grazie mille .Magnifiche ricette culinarie! In bocca al lupo signor Shaw!!!!!!! From your admirer of Vancouver island,Britisch Columbia,Canada.
Would it be possible to use dehydrated mushrooms for this recipe (dehydrated in a dehydrator but without salt)?
Chelsea: I don’t know. Never tried it.