Mmmushroom Barley Soup in the Crockpot

You say grain, and I think barley.  It’s somewhere deep in my Scottish gene sequence along with leeks and lamb.

I pulled out the big crockpot for this recipe, which uses one of the big yogurt containers full of sauteed morels that we harvested last season.  For non-regular readers, H and I found the motherlode of morels while out in our kayaks, and ended up hauling back something like 50 pounds.

And once again, no, we did not pick every mushroom in the region. You had to be there, and we were.

After many mushroom give-aways and one sale, I started trying to deal with the rest.  Frankly, the morel fragrance was so strong in my house for so many days, it just about made me ill.  But I soldiered on, washing and spinning and drying and sauteing until the bitter, bitter end.

As a result, I haven’t actually used many of those morels since then.  But I think I’m over it now.

The cook-’em-in-butter-’til-they-weep method turned out to best the best way to deal with these sandy little devils–they released a lot of the grit they were holding into the bottom of the frying pan, and I was able to pour off the ‘shrooms and juices into containers for freezing.

I’ve no doubt that there’ll be a little sand still coming out and settling to the bottom of the crockpot, but that’s not a difficult issue to deal with in the soup.  Essentially the soup is vegetarian simply because I forgot to use the chicken stock in my fridge, and used a vegan boullion cube instead.

The only meaty ingredient I used is bacon fat–and that’s easy enough to replace.  I just happened to have some extra on hand from last night’s pasta dinner.  Butter (best) or oil would work just as well to caramelize the onions.

Herewith, the very simple recipe:

1 1/4 cups barley
2-3 cups sauteed mushrooms with their liquid
assorted tasty herbs (I used sage, thyme, and a little rosemary)
black pepper and salt if needed
a little over a half gallon of liquid (stock or water+boullion)
a large yellow onion, slowly caramelized in fat
some milk or cream, if you like it

Put everything but the onion and milk in your crockpot. It helps to start it on high, so the barley will begin cooking (but if you will be gone all day, you can use low). Slice up the onion and cook it slowly, stirring occasionally, until it’s a deep golden brown. Add that to the pot.

Add the milk or cream a bit before serving, and taste before adding more salt.

Obviously, the more interesting your assortment of mushrooms, the better the soup’s flavor will be. Cook the mushrooms before you add them, so their nutty flavor will mingle with the barley.

Local ingredients: morel mushrooms, yellow onion, milk.

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