Mushrooms, Russian cuisine

MushroomsMany famous Russian recipes use mushrooms as a main ingredient. This is unsurprising considering that much of Russia is covered in forests that are rich in mushrooms. It was relatively easy to gather a large number of mushrooms when they were in season, and to then dry or pickle them to use for the rest of the year. Since mushrooms grow relatively fast, it was easy to remember the most fertile places and return there again and again.

Mushrooms were also popular during fasts, since meat was not permitted. Mushrooms are nutritious and have lots of protein, and so were valuable during the 200+ days a year that Russians were fasting.

There are several common ways of preserving and cooking mushrooms in Russian cuisine. These are secrets that have been passed down through generations:

  • Fried mushrooms are most delicious when there are several types of mushrooms. White mushrooms are best when cooked with chanterelles or other types of mushrooms. Mushrooms could be fried whole or sliced, and could be served as a separate dish or as a garnish.
  • Different types of pickled mushrooms are best cooked separately. If cooked together, they can create a mix that’s impossible to eat. Certain types of mushrooms are especially tasty when pickled, and are often used as appetizers or in soups. Pickled mushrooms can also be served with onions, herbs, and garlic for extra taste.
  • Dried mushrooms can be easily returned to their normal size when fresh, and so are popular for dishes in the winter. The most common dried mushrooms are white mushrooms.
  • Stewed mushrooms are the most common for vegetable, fish and meat dishes, or can be used with potatoes or cabbage as a filling for pierogies.
  • Boiled mushrooms are used in soups or in pierogies, though boiling is not the most common way of cooking mushrooms.

One of the most common Russian dishes - mushrooms with potatoes - only became especially popular in the 18th century, when potatoes were introduced to Russia. Mushrooms are used in a variety of dishes, so make sure to try a bunch to figure out what you like best.