Chanterelles, and Dianna's chanterelle vodka recipe

After 2 months of solid drought followed by 2 weeks of solid rain, we finally have actual August in the produce department: potatoes, beets and basil, tomatoes, summer squash and beans…Plus way more lettuce than we can eat which must be harvested before it bolts but where to put it is a problem because the refrigerator is full of mushrooms.

I try to be disciplined and process everything we’ve picked before going out for more, but I don’t do any better with that than with taking out a plant for every new plant I acquire.

There are still some boletes left from last week, for instance, because I got sidetracked dealing with the chanterelles.

cantharellus cibarius on left, atop a pile of Cantharellus ignicolor

Bakaitis photo

The big one is the classic chanterelle of commerce, Cantharellus cibarius. The little guys (no common names)  are a mixture of C. ignicolor  – the all-yellow ones –  and fragrant, tasty C. tubaeformis, which is unusually abundant this year.  *

Unlike boletes, chanterelles don’t dry well. To preserve them you have to cook and freeze them or pickle them if you don’t hate pickled mushrooms or – a much better and easier course  – make Dianna’s chanterelle vodka.

At least that’s how I think of it, because our friend and  fellow mushroomer Dianna Smith is the one who turned us on to it.

“Turn on” is the correct phrase; it’s frighteningly addictive. You feel like you’re drinking pure chanterelle and although the vodka has, if anything, slightly less alcohol than normal on account of the moisture in the mushrooms, it certainly doesn’t feel that way.

Dianna’s vodka recipe follows. Dianna’s gorgeous and informative mushroom website is here.

Chanterelle Vodka

Per Dianna:

I just cut up about 20 yellow chanterelles and stuffed  them into a large mason jar, poured good vodka over them and allowed them to marinate for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. Before bottling, I sifted the larger particles out through cheesecloth and then poured the vodka into a nice big bottle. For ‘decorative effect’ I added a Cinnabar-red chanterelle that had been in the general yellow chanterelle concoction.

Recipe note: She means it when she says “good vodka.” The first time we made it we used el cheapo, which works fine when you’re making the infusion of hot peppers I made in college and called firewater ( in the pre-flavored vodka days). El cheapo does not work fine with chanterelles. Our current alas rather expensivo favorite is Cold River, made in Maine from Maine potatoes let’s hear it for local produce. chantarelle vodka in mason jars

The jar I started about a week ago is on the left. The one I started today is on the right. If you fill the jar with chopped chanterelles, not cheating but also not pressing down hard to really pack them in, you will have plenty for flavoring purposes and should not be surprised when they all float to the to top – and eventually sink to the bottom.

* This is an edited version of an earlier description, which did not distinguish between the two smaller chanterelles.

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  • This looks wonderful. I’ll be sending the link to my mushroom-fanatic sister. She has put up 15 or so quarts so far this year. My 15 year old daughter can spot a chantarelle at 500 yards ( or so it seems). We’re hoping to get out to pick Sunday afternoon. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I’m eager to give it a try.

    I dry chantarelles, powder them and then add a little to winter soups. It adds a nice flavor when the soup “needs something.”

    Enjoy the week! We couldn’t as for a better forecast.

  • leslie Said,

    Hi Robin

    always a pleasure to hear from you. I’m in awe of 15 quarts of canned chantarelles; your sister must live in Catharellus heaven.

    I never think of canning them because of needing a pressure canner (note to neophytes: pressure canning and careful attention to safe procedures is essential; mushrooms are not a food with which you can slide around the rules).

    Powdering dried ones sounds excellent. That would take care of the leathery quality and they’d be perfect in cream sauces and other pale applications where black trumpets – our favorite for mushroom powder – are a visual problem. We’ll put some of those ignicolors in the drier right away!

    Your story of abundance reminds me we’re not alone and is a goad to putting up my other favorite recipe: potted chantarelles with Maine shrimp. Please stay tuned for same and I hope you have good hunting.

  • You should check out the website for Cold River Vodka. There’s a wonderful story behind the original idea and creation of this magical drink. I was involved with the initial PR launch for Cold River and it’s made by people who are as wonderful as their vodka is delicious! Go to

  • lennie bennett Said,

    Hi, Leslie,
    I was a huge fan of yours decades ago when you wrote a syndicated food column. I’m so glad to have rediscoered you and the charmed life you continue to lead. I know it’s a lot of work but you make it seem utterly delightful. And certainly gratifying.
    I wrote to you a while back about a long-lost recipe for caponata you printed once. I have never happened on another as good. As I recall, the eggplant was fried. You asked that I write you when tomato season was in full swing. So cheers and cheerio.

    P.S. I live in west central Florida and many of the agrarian pleasures of which you write are impossible in my climate so the vicarious enjoyment of them is especially sweet.

  • leslie Said,

    update, 9/27: Finally found the original — 1978! — and have posted a (slightly) revised version of the caponata recipe. Hope you enjoy it!

    Hi Lennie
    I’m so glad to hear you’ve kept up with the blog — and that you’re still a fan!

    Don’t know if I’m glad you reminded me about the caponata, because
    a) I have to find the recipe, which I haven’t used for years, buried somewhere deep in the hard copy (by which I date myself) files, and

    b) I have to make it, to be sure I don’t want to add tweaking commentary.

    B is basically the reason for a: you’re right about frying the eggplant. You also fry the onions, AND the celery, each one separately, all in substantial quantities of olive oil –
    before you get to the part about the tomatoes and other things…

    but you’re also right ( in my opinion) about its singular goodness, so those around me will be thanking you even if I’m ambivalent.

    As for the agricultural pleasures of west central Florida… I’m totally ignorant, but but presumably you have things I can only enjoy vicariously. Mangoes, for instance. Buddha’s hand, and oh how I wish I could grow THAT. Southern jasmine. Plus you get to leave the brugmansias and cannas and aolocasias in the ground instead of digging the damn things up and storing them every winter.

    It would be fun to hear what you plant; there must be all kinds of nifty things, exotic to us, growing in your garden.

  • Tatiana Said,

    Very curious to know, how much of the chanterelle powder do you usually put into a soup? Just powdered five lbs (for one glorious pint of powder) and now I’m wondering how to get the most flavoring for the effort without being stingy or overly exuberant.

    Hi Tatiana
    Wow! Five pounds! No wonder you decided to dry some. I don’t dare give quantities on the powder, too much depends on the strength of its flavor and on the other tastes in the soup.
    I’d make the soup as usual as far as possible toward completion, then put a small amount of powder in a bowl and mix thoroughly with enough of the soup to make a thin slurry.
    Stir the slurry into the soup, simmer a few minutes, then taste. Add more as the taste suggests. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it…

  • Jamil Lahham Said,

    Thanks a bunch, were I am in Virginia, mother Earth gave new name to the Cantharellus cibarius…it is the plenty, and Dianna’s Vodka recipe is needed to consume what we are not eating. They are not just plenty, but the wether is well accomodating to allow them to grow big…Thanks again..

    Hi Jamil
    What great news! We’re hoping for a good year here, too, but it hasn’t really started yet. To my mild surprise, the black trumpets seem to be ahead. Happy vodka – oh, by the way, it’s great to cook with as well as drink so you can use up a lot.

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