Candied Witches Butter
Candied Witches Butter is a sweet treat that resembles sour gummy candy and has wonderful good things inside to help keep you healthy. I'm not a nutritionist so please look up the properties of Tremella mesenterica and Tremella aurentia, commonly known as Witches Butter, to see what I mean. Witches Butter is a very easily identified fungus you can find in nearly any forest.
Tremella mesenterica and Tremella aurentia are both known commonly as Witches Butter and are readily found throughout the fall and winter after the seasonal rains begin. During the summer, they virtually dry up but then are rehydrated again by Autumn rains. Many people consider them to be a hiker's trail snack. They are easily spotted on dead wood as they are brilliantly orange. I use a knife to cleanly slice bits of the Witches Butter from the log leaving a little behind to continue growing for the next time I pass by.
Be sure to have a sealable plastic bag with you when hunting for Witches Butter. I once tried to bring some home in a paper lunch bag and it dried up so completely before I got home that I could scarcely find it in the bag! Witches Butter will keep for several days in sealed plastic in the refrigerator. This will give you some time if you can't find enough all at once to make a recipe. If you live in the PNW that won't likely be a problem.
After you've foraged your Witches Butter you will want to rinse it clean of debris but be sure and wait until you are ready to make your candy before rinsing. I found a few Cat's Tongue fungus and added it to this batch as well to see how it comes out. I've seen many comments about not being able to make very good candy from either of these so I set out to see what I could do about making it better.
Luckily, I stumbled on the answer quite simply with some experimentation.
First, as you can see in the images above, I started with a basic method used to candy most fruits. This is the most common method for making candied Witches Butter that I have found, but the end result is quite wet and gooey, not what I expect from a gummy. The jelly fungus is simply too wet and absorbent unless it's dried out after being candied in the sugar water.
This led me to my next step, the dehydrator. Using a dehydrator at this stage is also quite common when making candied Witches Butter. The problem is getting the candies to stay or be plump and chewy as most people expect from a gummy.
After dehydrating, the Witches Butter is very small, flat and very sticky. When dehydrated until crisp, it's almost not even there any longer, so...what to do...
I placed the candied Witches Butter into a sealed container with some sugar and citric acid to coat the outside of each piece and keep it from sticking together. I added some more citric acid to make it more sour 'cause we like our gummies to be sour. It tasted great! It was kind of pretty, but it wasn't plump.
So I left it in the glass jar and I looked at it everyday. I shook it up a little every day. I added a little more sugar whenever it seemed like the sugar was clumping or disappearing... and I contemplated. What more could one do to this fun (and a little freaky) candy, that would make it more plump, more chewy?
Then little by little, it just happened! The sugar was melting and turning to liquid that was then sucked back up by the Witches Butter filling it up with it's sweet and sour yummy until they were finally plump! It took about 3 weeks of aging, but that's far less than lot's of the cheese I make so hey, why not?
This is not instant candy obviously, but it's sure interesting and perhaps there's a bit of healthy in there too.
Enjoy! Or freak out your friends with some candied fungi.
Candied Witches Butter
By Melisa Smith
1/3 - 1/2 cup Witches Butter Pieces
1/2 cup simple syrup - ( or boil equal parts granulated sugar and water to make 1/2 cup simple syrup)
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 teaspoon citric acid
2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar divided, more if needed
Rinse the witches butter thoroughly to remove debris.
Heat simple syrup, lemon extract and citric acid to a low boil.
Add the witches butter and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes or so then remove the pan from heat and allow the contents to cool for 15 minutes or more.
Remove the witches butter from the liquid and chop the witches butter into smaller pieces if necessary to get evenly sized pieces.
Place the pieces on parchment paper and dehydrate on a vegetable setting or at 135 degrees for 4-5 hours or as needed to reduce the liquid until the witches butter is sticky and gummy.
Allow it to cool to room temperature, then use a sharp knife to peel the witches butter pieces off of the parchment and place the pieces one at a time into a small glass jar with a tablespoon of sugar, swirling to coat the gummies to keep them from sticking together. Add another tablespoon or about half way through until all of the witches butter pieces are in the jar and evenly coated with sugar. Add a little more citric acid if you like your gummies more sour.
Close the jar tightly and shake daily, adding sugar and or citric acid as necessary, aging the witches butter for 3 weeks or until the gummies have plumped to your liking.