From The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Opened (1669)
Champignons are best, that grow upon gravelly dry rising Grounds. Gather them of the last nights growth; and to preserve them white, it is well to cast them into a pitcher of fair-water, as you gather them: But that is not absolutely necessary, if you will go about dressing them as soon as you come home. Cut the great ones into halves or quarters, seeing carefully there be no worms in them; and peel off their upper skin on the tops: the little ones, peel whole. As you peel them, throw them into a bason of fair-water, which preserves them white.
Then put them into a pipkin or possnet of Copper (no Iron) and put a very little water to them, and a large proportion of Salt. If you have a pottle of Mushrooms, you may put to them ten or twelve spoonfuls of water, and two or three of Salt. Boil them with pretty quick-fire, and scum them well all the while, taking away a great deal of foulness, that will rise. They will shrink into a very little room.
When they are sufficiently parboiled to be tender, and well cleansed of their scum, (which will be in about a quarter of an hour,) take them out, and put them into a Colander, that all the moisture may drain from them. In the mean time make your pickle thus: Take a quart of pure sharp white Wine Vinegar (elder-Vinegar is best) put two or three spoonfuls of whole Pepper to it, twenty or thirty Cloves, one Nutmeg quartered, two or three flakes of Mace, three Bay-leaves; (some like Limon-Thyme and Rose-mary; but then it must be a very little of each) boil all these together, till the Vinegar be well impregnated with the Ingredients, which will be in about half an hour. Then take it from the fire, and let it cool.
When the pickle is quite cold, and the Mushrooms also quite cold, and drained from all moisture: put them into the Liquor (with all the Ingredients in it) which you must be sure, be enough to cover them. In ten or twelve days, they will have taken into them the full taste of the pickle, and will keep very good half a year. If you have much supernatant Liquor, you may parboil more Mushrooms next day, and put them to the first. If you have not gathered at once enough for a dressing, you may keep them all night in water to preserve them white, and gather more the next day, to joyn to them.”
Champignon is the medieval term for white button mushrooms. “Of last night’s growth” means ones that weren’t there the previous night. I chickened out and got packages from the grocery store. Pipkins and Possnets are small cooking pans. A pottle is an archaic unit of measure equal to a half gallon. Twenty or thirty cloves??? Um, no. Just no. By liquor, he means the pickling liquid, not alcohol. Supernatant liquor is liquid over a solid residue. I didn’t realize the term was that old!
One pottle of mushrooms = 1/2 gallon = 1892.7 grams
One package of mushrooms = 12 ounces = 340 grams = ~20% of a pottle
From: Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book (1605)
“TO PICKLE MUSHROOMS
Take your Buttons, clean ym with a spunge & put ym in cold water as you clean ym, then put ym dry in a stewpan & shake a handfull of salt over ym, yn stew ym in their own liquor till they are a little tender; then strain ym from ye liquor & put ym upon a cloath to dry till they are quite cold. Make your pickle before you do your Mushrooms, yt it may be quite cold before you put ym in. The pickle must be made with White-Wine, White-Pepper, quarter’d Nutmeg, a Blade of Mace, & a Race of ginger.”
Take your Buttons, clean them with a sponge and put them in cold water as you clean them, then put them dry in a stewpan and shake a handful of salt over them, then stew them in their own liquor till they are a little tender; then strain them from the liquor and put them upon a cloth to dry until they are quite cold. Make your pickle before you do your mushrooms, so it may be quite cold before you put them in. The pickle must be made with white wine, white pepper, quartered nutmeg, a blade of mace, and a race of ginger.
Again, the liquor is not alcohol, but the pickling liquid. Nutmeg and mace both come from the same plant, Myrstica fragrans. Nutmeg is the seed, mace is the lace-like peel. A blade of mace is about 1/6 of the entire peel, so call it about a 1/2 teaspoon. A race of ginger is one piece of root.
Modern Redaction using both recipes:
- 3/4 cup water (12 tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 36 oz. fresh mushrooms (3 12-ounce packages)
- 1 quart white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons white pepper
- 3 whole cloves (not 30!)
- 1 whole nutmeg, broken (place in baggie, wrap in towel, hit with hammer)
- 1/2 teaspoon powdered mace
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 small ginger root, peeled and sliced
In a small saucepan, combine water, salt, and peeled mushrooms. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. It looks like there’s not enough liquid. You just need enough to keep the mushrooms from scorching until they start to tenderize. They will give up half their weight as liquid. When the mushrooms are tender, strain them in a colander over a second saucepan. Don’t throw away the liquid, it makes a great mushroom broth for homemade soup! If you use commercial mushrooms, there won’t be any scum to deal with. In a third saucepan, combine the vinegar, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, mace, bay leaves, and ginger root. Bring to a boil. Let everything cool. Place the mushrooms in a clean jar, pour the pickling liquid over them, and seal. Let marinate for two weeks.