Wild-Food Recipes for Foragers (2024)

In the Yankee food feature “Forest to Table” (November/December 2023), Maine food writer Kathy Gunst describes the edible treasures she found on her own property with the help of professional forager Jenna Rozelle. Here are two recipes that put to use some ingredients they harvested, and which may inspire you to give foraging a try!

Wild-Food Recipes for Foragers (1)

Kathy Gunst’s Poached Pears

When I spent the day with Maine forager Jenna Rozelle, we discovered an old pear tree just behind my house. The pears were on the small side, but firm and perfect for roasting or poaching. That day we fired up my pizza oven, doused the pears in white wine, and scattered them with wild hazelnuts we found on the property. This holiday version uses store-bought pears poached in a sweet syrup of wine scented with a cinnamon stick. Note: You don’t want to use fully ripe pears or they will fall apart during poaching.

4 almost-ripe pears (Bosc, Anjou, or your favorite variety)
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
2 cups white, red, rosé, or bubbly wine
1 cinnamon stick
Coarsely chopped toasted nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, or almonds), a sprinkle of dried sumac, and whipped cream, for garnish (optional)

Peel the pears, keeping the stems attached. Turn the pears over and, using a small melon scooper or a small, sharp knife, remove the core from the bottom of the fruit by gently digging into the flesh and cutting out the core. Using a small, sharp knife, cut a very thin slice from the bottom of the fruit so it lies flat on a surface.

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In a medium-size pot that fits all the pears, bring the sugar, water, and wine to a rolling boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook 5 minutes, making sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Gently lower the pears into the sugar syrup, cover, and cook for about 35 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the bottom of the pears feels soft. Turn the pears over several times during cooking so the pears cook evenly on all sides. The timing will vary depending on the freshness and type of pear.

Remove the pears from the syrup with a slotted spoon and place on a serving plate with a rim (you will be adding syrup, so it needs to have a rim that will contain the liquid). Keep cooking the syrup in the pot over medium-high heat until it reduces slightly and thickens just enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes. Pour the syrup over the pears. The pears can be served at room temperature or chilled. They can be made a day ahead of time; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Sprinkle on the nuts and/or sumac, if using, and serve with whipped cream on the side, if desired.

Wild-Food Recipes for Foragers (2)

Jenna Rozelle’s Roasted Wild Mushroom & Onion Dip

This undeniably luxurious dip showcases some of New England’s most common and most coveted wild mushrooms, like maitakes (hen-of-the-woods mushrooms) and black trumpets. If you can’t find harvest these mushrooms yourself, they’re favorites in the market, too, and you can likely find them dried at your local grocer or get them from a forager. The dip makes the flavor of just a handful of mushrooms stretch into a bowl of dip big enough to please a whole party. Make it a day or three ahead — it gets better with a little age!

1 ounce dried wild mushrooms (black trumpet, maitake, or porcini are best)
2 pounds white or yellow onions (about 6 medium onions)
3 sprigs of thyme (though I use sweetfern, Comptonia peregrina)
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 cups sour cream
1½ cups cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup chives, minced
2 teaspoons onion powder

Put dried mushrooms into a medium bowl and pour slightly more than 2 cups room-temperature water over them, enough to cover completely. Rehydrate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F.

Halve your onions and slice thinly. Put them into a medium roasting pan and mix thoroughly with the oil, thyme, and salt. Roast 20 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Stir in mushrooms and ⅓ cup rehydrating liquid (save the rest of the liquid as mushroom broth for other meals.) Roast 20 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Add wine and vinegar, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom and sides of the pan. Roast another 10 to 20 minutes until all the liquid has evaporated and the onions and mushrooms are caramelized and jammy.

Remove from oven and spread mixture out evenly in the pan to cool to the point where you can put it into the refrigerator. Reserve ¼ cup mixture to dollop on top of the finished dip.

Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl or in your serving bowl, combine sour cream, cream cheese, chives, and onion powder. Reserve a teaspoon or so of chives to sprinkle on top.

Once mushroom mixture is cool, stir into the sour cream mixture to combine completely and taste. Add salt if needed.

Transfer to serving bowl, add reserved mushroom mixture and chives to the top of the bowl, cover, and chill.

Serve with your favorite potato chips, crackers, and crunchy vegetable crudité; stir a dollop into soups, stews, and pan sauces; or spread on toast.

Wild-Food Recipes for Foragers (2024)
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