If you harvested more wood ear mushrooms than you can use, you may be wondering what to do with the excess. The simplest answer is to dehydrate them, but how do you do it? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll talk about how to dry wood ear mushrooms and how to reconstitute them when you’re ready to add them to your favorite recipes.
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3 Ways to Dry Wood Ear Mushrooms
Drying wood ears is much the same as drying any other kind of mushroom. There are several different methods you can use to accomplish the same end result.
Let’s take a look at each of these methods in turn.
In a Dehydrator
This is by far the most common method of dehydrating mushrooms, including wood ears. A dehydrator is specifically designed for the job of drying many different kinds of food, so it completes the process effectively and fairly quickly.
Wash your mushrooms if desired and allow the excess water to drain and evaporate. Then, chop them into coarse, evenly-sized pieces.
You may want to leave the smaller mushrooms whole and chop the larger ones down to a smaller size. It depends on how large you want the pieces to be at the end of the process.
Keep in mind that these mushrooms will shrivel down to a half, third, or even fourth of their original size once they have been dehydrated.
Place your mushroom pieces on dehydrator trays. Make sure they are evenly-spaced on the trays, with gaps in between them to allow for even drying.
Place the trays in your dehydrator and adjust the temperature to your desired setting. Recommended temperature settings for mushrooms range between 110 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit; the higher the temperature, the shorter the dehydration time.
If you have an Excalibur dehydrator, a good setting to try is the vegetable setting, which is 125 degrees.
Allow your mushrooms to dehydrate for 4 to 8 hours before you begin checking on them. The total time they will take to dry will vary depending on the temperature setting, the size of your mushroom pieces, and their moisture content–it may take 12 hours or more.
Allow them to continue drying until they are shriveled and brittle, like pieces of bone. If they are thin enough, you should be able to snap them between your fingers.
Once they are finished dehydrating, allow them to sit at room temperature for a couple of minutes to cool down. Then, transfer them to an airtight container and store them in a cool, dry place.
In an Oven
If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can dry wood ear mushrooms in the oven.
Wash your mushrooms and allow the excess water to drain and evaporate. Chop them into evenly-sized pieces, as in the above section.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper and spread the mushroom pieces evenly across the sheets. Again, make sure there are gaps between them so they will dry at the same pace.
Place your baking sheets in an oven preheated to the lowest setting–for most ovens, that will be 170 degrees Fahrenheit. The difficulty with oven-drying mushrooms is that it usually must be done at a higher temperature, so it is easy to burn or overdry them.
To counteract this, as well as to allow more moisture to evaporate, leave your oven door cracked open. This will cause excess heat and moisture to escape rather than recirculate back through the oven.
Check your mushrooms regularly after a couple of hours. You may want to stir them around or turn them over from time to time to make sure they are drying evenly and properly.
Again, the total drying process will vary depending on the temperature of the oven, the size of the mushroom pieces, and their moisture content. Most likely, the process will take anywhere from 2 to 6 hours, but it may take longer for especially wet or large mushroom pieces.
Once they are shriveled and bone-hard, remove the mushrooms from the oven and allow them to cool for a few minutes. Transfer them to airtight containers and store them in a cool, dry place.
Air-drying is one of the oldest methods of drying mushrooms. If you want a method that is low-maintenance and doesn’t require a lot of involvement, you may want to try air drying your wood ears.
You can check out how it’s done in the video below.
String a long piece of thread on a needle and poke the needle through the middle of each mushroom. Slide the mushrooms onto the thread, making sure not to pack them too tightly.
If you live in a fairly dry environment, you can hang your strings of mushrooms in a sunny location outside. Otherwise, place them in a sunny room to dehydrate.
To speed up the process, you can set up a box fan to blow on them. The air flow will more quickly wick away the moisture from the mushrooms and aid in the drying process.
If you are drying them outside, bring them in at night so they don’t absorb the moisture in the air. Place them back in the same sunny, dry location the following day.
Allow the strings of mushrooms to sit in the sun for about two days. It may take longer or shorter depending on how large the mushroom pieces are.
Make sure the mushrooms are brittle and bone-dry before packing them into airtight containers. To store them, keep them in a cool, dry place.
How to Rehydrate Wood Ear Mushrooms?
Dehydrated wood ears store well and can be kept for up to a year. What do you do with them when you’re ready to use them?
Dried wood ears can be used just like fresh ones as long as you rehydrate them first.
To do this, place your mushrooms in a bowl and completely cover them in hot water. The water doesn’t need to be boiling, as this will cause the mushrooms to get mushy.
Make sure the mushrooms are completely covered by the water. Allow them to sit for about half an hour, soaking up the water.
They will double, triple, or quadruple in size during this process, so make sure you don’t rehydrate more than you can use.
After about 30 minutes, they will have recovered their natural rubbery, flexible texture. Remove them from the water, allow the excess to drain on paper towels, and use them however you would use fresh wood ears.
You can dry wood ear mushrooms using a dehydrator, an oven, or by air-drying them. Whichever method you use, store the mushrooms in a cool, dry place for up to a year and rehydrate them before you use them.