13 March, 2013

DIY Chaga Whiskey, Anyone?

Chaga (Inonotus Obliquus)
photo by Tomas Čekanavičius at Wikipedia

Any fungi gatherers or would-be fungi geeks might like this wonderful video by sylvi of pineaway about gathering chaga (Inonotus Obliquus) and using it to make a flavoured whisky.

I haven't tried foraging chaga or any mushroom yet but I plan to get a book and maybe some local expert to help me start.  Sylvi just looks so darn beatific in her video that I'm inspired.

And then there was that episode of Pitchin' In with chef Lynn Crawford hanging off the side of a cliff in Oregon with a hippie mushroom guru and the two of them slurping lobster mushrooms they had cooked right out of old beer cans.

I'm not really much of a believer in new-age concoctions and you won't find me buying all those pricy nutriceuticals at the health food store, but I like to think I have an open mind when I come across something that works. Last spring I did some volunteer cooking for the Permaculture course held at the Blockhouse School and one day after sweating over the stove and serving for many hours I felt particularly tired and a bit sick.  I was given a cup of mushroom drink by one of the young participants and within five minutes I felt well and my energy had returned. There was no sugar or alcohol in it so I concluded that it might be the mushrooms.  This sparked my interest to find out more about them.

Fungi are fascinating not just because of their delicious taste and healthful properties but for their ability to interact with trees and other plants in underground networks that exchange nutrients and make our forests and gardens healthy.

This year I want to start growing some mushrooms. The thought of homegrown shitake in miso soups, ragouts and pilafs makes me feel a bit faint with excitement. Discovering some local morels would be like finding Shangri-la.  And if I could grow cremini or chestnut mushrooms for Lazy Pakoras and Carrot Mushroom Veggie Burgers (recipe coming soon), well!  Yes, I am just that food geeky.

Thanks, Sylvi, for this great how-to done with charm and style.