The Great Porcini Taste-off
Actually, I just said that to get your attention. What we really had was a Bolete taste-off, comparing a few of the Northeast’s many edible boletes ( all from recent hauls) to the gold standard, Boletus edulis, aka porcino, cep, steinpilz and King bolete.
We know edulis is good. We crow with delight whenever we find them. But we have eaten others that came close, and now that the rains are bringing us so many others… well, how could I resist?
Bill took this photo of one of the contenders, Tylopilus chromapes, the day we did the test.
It wasn’t a completely fair fight, because the mushrooms weren’t all at the same stage of development.
Tiny buttons have the firmest texture; small mushrooms that have been open long enough to ripen some spores have a richer taste. In most cases, the larger they get the softer they get, and once the pores start elongating you have to remove them unless you’re keen on okra, than which they are even slimier.
Part of the group, clockwise from center left: Tylopilus chromapes, Boletus edulis, Boletus bicolor, Boletus albisulphureus, and Boletus ornatipes ( the yellow one), with Boletus pallidus beside it.
These mushrooms were all collected within a couple of days of each other. The bits are because perfect specimens are rare; bugs like boletes as much as people do and it’s essential to remove them as soon as the mushroom has been correctly identified.
The samples were cut in similar sized pieces and fried in butter in the same pan. It was was wiped out after each mushroom and washed whenever anything stuck. I lined them up next to their name tags and then we tasted, washing our mouths out with water between.
The results follow and I can say only I wish bicolor and ornatipes had come out better because we’re finding pounds and pounds of them. They were certainly plenty tasty, and if they were all that was in the offing I’d collect them gladly. But the rains that are rotting the formerly parched garden have brought chantarelles and black trumpets too, and preserving mushrooms takes time.
In ascending order of splendor ( not the order in the dish):
Boletus pallidus: Well named, unfortunately.
B. badius: I remember the small ones as pretty flavorful but the test proved big ones are bland.
B. bicolor: Okay, but not oh boy. Better after it’s been dried, as far as I can tell.
B. ornatipes: Good flavor, but with a slightly bitter edge. Turns black when cooked.
B. aereus: Supposedly as good as edulis. Ours weren’t, but they were in the running.
Tylopilus chromapes: Rounded flavor, nice texture. No trace of the bitterness that Tylopilus suggests.
B. affinis: Very rich flavor. Well worth collecting. Almost as delicious as edulis and in a different way.
B. albisulphureus: Yummy! Unfortunately quite rare, at least in midcoast Maine and the Hudson Valley. I’d never seen it before and Bill’s only found it a few times in all his years of collecting. Otherwise it would be tied with
B. edulis: The winner and still champeen.
Tylopilus photo: Bill Bakaitis