We’re going to create a deep umami condiment out of mushrooms, and then use that condiment on freaking everything. Doesn’t sound very convincing? Think about Worcestershire sauce: It goes with absolutely everything. Meat, vegetables—heck, it’s a major component of Caesar salad dressing. The reason is the depth and brightness it brings to dishes. Worcestershire is a garum, and we’re going to create a similarly flavorful garum at home.
A little about garums
Garums are known for umami, which is the result of fermentation. These sauces are an ancient Roman tradition where ingredients, usually fish, were allowed to ferment for long periods of time to result in a liquid that had an intense earthy flavour. Garums have become popular again recently thanks to restaurants like Noma and chefs like Jori Jayne Emde, and the notion of garums has been extended to other ingredients, like mushrooms.
While most garums are allowed to ferment for months, we’re going to make a quick ferment and use a few tricks to get that deep, aged flavour.
Start with a well-rounded bunch of shrooms
You can really use any kind of mushroom, even your supermarket crimini, but the deeper the mushroom taste, the better the garum. I encourage you to visit your local Asian grocer for a wealth of reasonably priced fresh mushrooms. You’re aiming for 1,000 grams of shroomage, a mixture of any you please. Since I had a lot of mushies to choose from at my local H Mart, I pulled from a wealth of varieties of meatier shrooms: shitake, maitake, oysters, and a bunch of varieties of your basic button. In the past, I’ve made this purely out of chanterelles that were gifted, and you could make it out of just the mushrooms you can get at your local market.
Blend it all
You’re going to dust your shrooms, then wash them off quickly (don’t soak them, mushrooms are a sponge and you don’t want them absorbing that much water). Toss them into a covered pot. The pot goes into the oven overnight at the lowest temperature it will go down to— usually between 170 and 200°F. In the morning, you’ll find that the mushrooms are roasted and deflated in size considerably, and there’s also a collection of mushroom broth at the bottom. The next step is to take it all over to the blender, and blend it to a mush, adding two tablespoons of prepared shio koji (which I buy already prepared at my local Asian market) and 25 grams of black garlic. The garlic is going to help with that aging flavor. To this, you’ll add 35 grams of sea salt or other non-iodized salt.
Let your shrooms CTFO
Take your mush and scrape it into a vacuum-sealer bag or a Ziploc. We want to get all the bubbles of air out of the mush before we seal it, so drop it onto the counter repeatedly from eight or so inches high, until you see all the bubbles disappear. Then seal it using your vacuum sealer or using the water displacement method. Now, it should sit someplace 60-80°F in the dark. I keep mine on a shelf in my kitchen so I see it every day.
Over the next few days, we’re hoping to see that bag inflate with air. Except it’s not air: It’s Co2, and that’s a sign that fermentation is happening. Allow it to inflate until the bag is full enough you’re worried it will pop, and then let the Co2 escape by cutting the end off the bag and resealing it, or opening the Ziploc and using water displacement again.
Watch out for the fuzz
This can continue for as long as you like—the more aging, the better, although you want at least two weeks of aging. Because we are limiting the exposure to air, and thus, yeast from the atmosphere in your home, you’re more likely to find success. If you see any sort of fuzz, that’s a sign the fermentation has failed. While white fuzz is usually just Kahm yeast, which isn’t harmful, it doesn’t taste great, and since the whole point of this is a deeply flavorful sauce, I’d toss it and start over.
Clarify the final product
A day or two before you’d like to serve, it’s time to open the bag, pour the contents into a nut bag or cheesecloth, and then use the cloth to squeeze out as much liquid as you can into a bowl. Twisting the bag or cloth and using your hands to squeeze every drop out will give you a slightly cloudy liquid at the end. If this sits overnight, you’ll find all the particulates have settled to the bottom, and you can pour off all the liquid at the top, resulting in a clear garum. Pour this into a bottle and leave it in the fridge. The garum can be used any way you’d use Worcestershire: Add it to gravy, use it in marinades, dress salads or vegetables with it, or use it to dress your meat. It makes a particularly good dipping sauce, or can be added to cocktails like a Bloody Mary, the same way Worcestershire is.
Mushroom Garum recipe
What you’ll need:
- 1000 grams of fresh mushrooms
- 25 grams of black garlic
- Two tablespoons of shio koji
- 30 grams of non-iodized salt
1. Dust off and then lightly wash the mushrooms, then add to a covered pot.
2. Cook the shrooms at 170°F overnight, then blend the entire contents of the pot with all the other ingredients.
3. Scrape resulting mush into a vacuum bag or Ziploc and remove air bubbles by bouncing on the countertop. Vacuum seal the bag or remove air from the Ziploc using water displacement method.
4. Allow bag to ferment at 60-80°F (16 – 27C), in the dark for as long as possible, but at least two weeks. When the bag is fully inflated with Co2, allow the air to escape, then reseal.
5. Pour the bag into cheesecloth or a nut bag, and squeeze out all the liquid possible. Allow the liquid to sit overnight so the particulates can settle, and then pour off the clear liquid into a bottle. Store in the refrigerator.