I returned to DC determined to make my own. After searching the Internet and finding multiple recipes, I combined what I liked best about several of them and came up with the version you see below. But before I could try it I had to get my mushrooms. On my lunch break I headed down to Whole Foods one day and positioning myself in front of the crimini bin, began to assiduously pick my way through, plucking out the smallest mushrooms I could find. Soon a man sidled up next to me and began doing the same thing, except he grabbed the largest specimens in the box. A peaceful coexistence reigned as each person's trash became the others treasure. I would like to end this paragraph with a great punch line, maybe with the man turning to me with some witty remark, but I'm afraid we each went our way without any sitcom style exchanges. I don't think the mushrooms suffered from the lack of dialogue, but it would have made for a better blog post, no? Either way, if you like pickles and mushrooms, you definitely want to try out this recipe. And if you can't think of what you would do with them, scroll to the bottom of this post for some ideas.
Makes about 5 cups, 617 calories for the whole recipe or about 62 calories per half cup serving.
1 lb Crimini or white button mushrooms (use the smallest ones you can find)
2 medium onions, sliced and separated into rings
About 3 ounces of red bell pepper cut into strips (about 1 small pepper, use more or less, to taste)
1-1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1-1/2 cup water
2-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp whole allspice berries (you may omit this if you can't find them)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp hot pepper flakes or to taste
Dash of ground cloves
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1. You will need a medium saucepan and a big pot, 3 pint, 6 half pint or 2 quart jars with lids (try using your old, clean pasta sauce or peanut butter jars for this). Make sure the rubber seal on the inside of the lids is intact. Fill the big pot with about 3 inches of water and place the lids face up in the water, and the jars mouth down on top of them. They don't have to line up, they just need to be under the water. Place the pot over high heat while you get started with the mushrooms.
2. Thoroughly clean your mushroom of choice, and prep your other vegetables. Feel free to use different spices than the ones that I list here, you will still get a good result, just different flavours.
3. Combine the spices, salt, sugar, water, vinegar, onion rings and pepper in the medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then add the mushrooms and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir so that the mushrooms all get a bath in the spicy broth. Take the saucepan off the heat.
4. By now the big pot with your jars should be boiling. Let it boil for about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat.
5. Using oven mitts and a pair of tongs, pull a jar out of the big pot, set it right side up on the counter and using a ladle or a cup measure, dip the hot pickling mixture out of the saucepan and fill your jar, leaving about half an inch of air at the very top. Use tongs to fish a lid out of the big pot and your oven mitts to tighten it down on your jar of pickles. Set aside and repeat until you are out of mushrooms.
6. You are done! This whole recipe can be put together in about an hour, including veggie prep time. Unfortunately you have to wait a while before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. Set those alluring jars aside to cool completely and then put them in your cupboard for at least a week before opening. If you try them sooner, the mushrooms wont have absorbed the full flavour from the pickling juice. Once the jar has been opened, the seal will be broken, so then you will want to keep it in the fridge.
Some ideas for your pickled mushrooms:
1. Blend or mince finely and mix with mayo or mustard and use as a spread in your favorite sandwich.
2. Top a salad with a couple of these for a delicious accompaniment.
3. Use the mushrooms (and onion and pepper) as a topping on your next pizza.
4. Toss with some short pasta and a bit of mayo for a great pasta salad.
5. My favorite way: sneak into the kitchen just before bed and eat them out of the jar with a fork.