Pidpenky (Ukrainian Creamed Mushrooms)
Most cultures in the world have traditional dishes that are centered around, or include, mushrooms. The Ukrainian culture is no different. In fact, mushroom gathering for Ukrainians is quite the thing!
When my ancestors immigrated to Canada from the village of Syn’kiw on the banks of the Dniester River in the Ukraine, they brought their mushroom harvesting skills with them. As a child, I remember my grandfather going out for the afternoon and returning with a five-gallon pail full them! It was an art passed down from generation to generation. You had to know what to pick (and what NOT to pick) so you didn’t get everyone sick. In the Ukraine, the family mushroom patch was a carefully-guarded secret. This are a little different on this side of the Atlantic. The mushroom patch is not quite so clandestine, but its location is certainly not readily-available information.
When picking mushrooms, you cut them off with a knife in order to protect the main root of the fungus from damage. The flat surface left by the knife allows the main body of the fungus, found mostly underground, to withstand and repel infection and rot. This way the root will stay healthy and continue to produce mushrooms in the future. Poisonous mushrooms are pulled or twisted out of the ground when found. The socket left behind leaves the root open to rot and infection, weakening it so it is not as prolific. Over time, such treatment may be successful in killing the poisonous root.
Poisonous mushrooms can cause anything from digestive upset to death, so this is not something to take lightly. The traditional way to check a batch of mushrooms for poison was to saute the mushrooms with chopped onion. Onions naturally absorb toxins in their environment. The onions are said to turn black if there is a poisonous mushroom in the mix. This indicates that those mushrooms are not safe to eat. I stick to buying my mushrooms at the store since I’m not particularly skilled at mushroom identification. Though, I would like to try one of those grow-your-own kits someday.
Personally, I love mushrooms! Scott hates them. With a capital “H”! That’s OK, just means more for me! Mushrooms are a great source of some important micronutrients, including B vitamins, selenium, potassium, copper, iron, and phosphorus. Beta-glucans, naturally-occurring polysaccharides, have a strong healing and immune supporting effect on the body, and mushrooms are particularly high in these. Some important reasons to include them in a healing diet if you tolerate them well!
Pidpenky is a type of honey mushroom often eaten in the Ukraine. The Ukrainians named their signature mushroom dish after it, but you can use any type, or combination of types, of mushrooms. Essentially, pidpenky is sauteed mushrooms and onions in a cream gravy. It is usually served for special occasions, like Christmas and Easter. Pidpenky is made with either regular cream (sweet pidpenky) or with sour cream (sour pidpenky). This recipe is an adaptation of sweet pidpenky.
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced or chopped
- 3-4 tablespoons fat of choice (coconut oil, avocado oil, tallow, bacon fat, duck fat, etc.)
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced OR 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 cup bone broth (substitute vegetable broth for a vegan version)
- 1/2 cup coconut milk or whole milk
- sea salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch
- 1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
- Saute onion and garlic in fat over medium heat until translucent and fragrant.
- Add mushrooms to onion and cook for 10 minutes, stirring as needed to ensure even cooking of mushrooms.
- Add bone broth and coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Salt to taste. Mix arrowroot starch with a small amount of cold water to dissolve. Stir into mushroom mixture to thicken.
- Stir in dill just before serving.
If you are sensitive to starches, I would recommend adding an extra 1/4 cup coconut milk and eliminating the arrowroot starch. Simmer until the sauce reduces to a thickened consistency. To achieve the flavour of sour pidpenky, double the garlic and add one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar when you add the bone broth and coconut milk, or you can use sour cream.
My favourite way to eat pidpenky is over top of a few Deruny (potato pancakes similar to latkes).