(2009) Chanterelles... one of summer's greatest offerings
The mushroom of the month for July is the chanterelle. This golden delectable begins to grow in Michigan in late June or early July. Around the Independence Day Holiday is when I usually begin to seriously hunt this mushroom in Southeast Michigan. Chanterelles are mycorrhizal so, given sufficient rainfall, they can be found in the same places year after year until the tree with which they are associated with dies. I almost cry when I read descriptions of West Coast chanterelles: Caps 5 to 6 inches wide, seldom invaded by insects. In Michigan and all of the East a large chanterelle is 2-3 inches wide and we have to race the bugs to the mushrooms. When I have picked a pound of chanterelles, culling and removing bug infested areas often reduces my find to a ¼ pound or less.
This desirable edible has a fleshy, yellow, vase shaped fruit body with incurved wavy cap edge. Chanterelles do not have true gills. The gill-like, highly decurrent structures under the cap are ridges often forking and often with cross veins. True gills are razor sharp; the ridges of the chanterelle are shallow, blunt-edged and often fairly thick. The flesh of the chanterelle is white with a tinge of yellow. The stalk of chanterelles is fairly thick and fibrous. The flesh of the chanterelle is quite dense.
Chanterelles are pleasantly aromatic with a fruity flavor reminiscent of fresh apricots or pumpkins. The flavor of the chanterelle is delicate and will not stand up to strong flavors. For cooking chanterelles can be cut in generous size pieces or, taking advantage of their fibrous nature, shredded into pieces. Chanterelles are meaty and chewy. Their flavor simply sliced and sautéed in butter is wonderful. Half and half or cream and chicken broth go well with chanterelles. Chanterelles have a high water content and a dry-saute is often used in their preparation. To dry sauté chanterelles, a technique used with blewits, hedgehogs, boletes, and other mushroom with a high water content, put the mushrooms in a skillet on high heat with no butter or oil. Sprinkle with salt to help draw out the liquid and sauté stirring constantly until they begin to give off liquid then let them cook until the juices are evaporated Then add butter or oil. Alternatively, you can pour off the juices for use as a stock. A traditional favorite dish is cream of chanterelle soup where the cream and broth enhance the delicate flavor of the chanterelle.
There are two look-alikes of concern when learning to identify chanterelles. Both look-alikes grow on wood whereas the chanterelle , a mycorrhizal mushroom, grows from the ground. Of course, both of the wood decaying mushroom can grow on subsurface roots so growing from the ground is not a definitive characteristic. The false chanterelle, Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca, has true orange colored gills that are close-spaced and decurrent . The gills will fork one to three times but will never have cross veins. The stalks of the false chanterelle are usually less than ½ inch thick whereas chanterelle has a fairly thick stalk. The false chanterelle has caused some gastric upsets. The Jack-o-lantern (below right), Omphalatos illudens, is a more highly toxic mushroom though also causing gastrointestinal distress. Jack-o-lanterns are entirely yellow orange to olive-yellow when fresh. The flesh is colored like the caps, never white. The true gills are thin-edged, decurrent and wide (deep). They are never repeatedly forked and never have cross veins.