Cooking Basic ingredients of Italian cuisine Porcino or punny ben or cep or Bolete

Porcino, penny bun or cep

Description, similar species, choosing, cleaning, cooking and nutritional properties of porcino

Porcino mushrooms in a  basket with fall leaves

Porcino (penny ben or cep or bolete)

Nutritive value in 100 g edible part

Edible part % 92
Water g 92
Protein g 3.9
Total fat g 0.7
Carbohydrates g 1
Total dietary fiber g 2.5
Food energy kcal 26
kJ 107
Sodium mg 52
Potassium mg 235
Iron mg 1.2
Calcium mg 22
Phosphorus mg 142
Thiamin mg 0.38
Riboflavin mg 0.26
Niacin mg 4
Vitamin A µg 0
Vitamin C mg 3

Geographical distribution. Porcino is widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere across Europe, Asia and North America. It is unknown in the South Hemisphere although it has been introduced to Southern Africa and New Zealand.

Habitat. Porcino can be found in the deciduous and coniferous forests where it forms ectomycorrhizal association with plant roots. In other words porcino envelopes its hyphae around the underground roots of a plant.

Description. Porcino produces spore-bearing fruit bodies above the ground in summer and autumn. Every fruit body consists of a cap and a stipe.
Cap. It can be 7 to 30 cm (2.8 - 12in) broad in maturity. It is convex in shape if young and flattens with age. Its colour is generally velvety-brown turning to white near the margin. Its feature is getting darker and darker as it goes to maturity. It is covered by a cuticle that can have different color and aspect. It can be smooth or wrinkled, slimy and shiny when there is humidity in the air. Its color varies from light yellow-brown to ocreish. In any way it turns to yellow-greenish or greenish with maturity.
Porcino cap can reach 35 cm (14in) in diameter and 3 kg (6.6 lb) in weight occasionally.
The under surface of the cap is made with thin tubes that produce a lot of spores. When the mushroom is young they are white turning to yellowish and then to greenish with the age.
Stipe or stem. Its color is whitish or light brown (hazel). It is finely reticulate on the upper part but smooth or irregulary ridged on the lower portion.
Now look at its measures carefully. It can be 8 to 25 cm (3.5 – 10in) in height and up to 7 cm (2.8 in) in thickness. Now compare the cap size with the stipe size. The stipe is too large compared with the cap. In Italy we say porcino is "panciuto e tracagnotto" (potbellied and squat). A bit plebeian to be the king of mushrooms, isn't it?
Besides its name means "piglet" in Italian but anyway it is the king of mushrooms really. It smells fantastic and tastes fantastic!
Porcino flesh must be white (it mustn't change in any case), thick and firm if the mushroom is young but it gets floppy and spongy quickly as it goes to maturity. If the mushroom is old it has brown-purplish highlights under the cuticle in the cap.

What's the best porcino? Somebody tells the best is picked under chestnut. Other people are sure the best are picked under beech or fir.
Anyway there are four species of edible and tasty porcino mushroom in Italy. Boletus edulis and Boletus pinophilus are less tasty but their flesh is firm and so they are suitable to preservation. On the contrary Boletus aereus and Boletus aestivalis are less firm but tastier.
Boletus aereus, also called Tête de nègre, is more expensive than Boletus edulis and very appreciated by gourmets.

Remember Porcino of Borgotaro. It is picked in Val di Taro (Emilia-Romagna) and well known in Italy for its flavor.

Common names. Porcino is the common Italian name for all the species of Boletus. It is also known as king bolete. Now we list the names used in Italy, England, France, Germany and Spain for every species

  • - Boletus aestivalis: Porcino estivo, Summer bolete, Cèpe d’été, Sommer–Steinpilz, Hongo de verano
  • - Boletus pinophilus: Porcino moro, Pinewood Penny Bun or Pine bolete, Cèpe de pins, Kiefern-Steinpilz, Boleto de los pinos
  • - Boletus aereus: Porcino nero or Bronzino, Queen bolete or Bronzy bolete, Cèpe bronzé or Cèpe tête de nègre, Bronze-Röhrling or Schwarzhütiger-Steinpilz, Hongo (Boleto) negro or Sureny or Onto beltzu
  • - Boletus edulis: Porcino or Ceppatello buono, Penny–bun Bolete, Cèpe de Bordeaux, Echter Steinpilz, Calabaza or Hongo comestible
Porcino or punny ben or cep
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Porcino

What is the right season? In Italy we find them fresh in June and autumn

Nutritional properties. Porcino is low in fat and digestible carbohydrates and high in protein, vitamins, minerals and dietary fibers.
Besides porcino produces antiviral compounds, antioxidants and particular substances known as phytochelatins that give the organism resistance to heavy metals.

How to choose porcino. If you need fresh porcino mushrooms you have to control the following features.
Every porcino mushroom must be firm without wormholes. But don't worry if you see wormholes and the flesh is firm. It's enough to cut the mushroom into slices lengthways and sprinkle them with salt. In this way you will be able to remove the larvae responsible of holes.
Signs of aging: the stipe is wizened, the under surface of the cap is yellowish, the cap is sticky, it has black areas, the flesh is floppy and spongy.

If you need dried porcino mushrooms be careful they are tan to light brown and not crumbly.

How to preserve porcino. Mushrooms are very delicate and porcino mushrooms are delicate too.
If you take home mushrooms sold by measure you must keep them well dry to avoid a rapid deterioration. In this case place them in a tray or large plate, separated one from the others. Then put the tray in a paper bag and chill. Chill only for 24 hours to 48 hours maximum.
The best thing would be to buy and cook them at once.

How to clean porcino. You eat everything of porcino mushrooms.
It's wrong to wash mushrooms and this rule is valid for porcino too.
Remove only the soil and leaves on their caps and stipes scraping them with a little knife. Wipe them with a damp cloth. They are ready to be cooked.

How to cook porcino. If fresh they must be cooked in a very simple way.
It's enough to saute them in a bit of olive oil for very few minutes or, simplier, grilling them for few seconds.
In Italy we are used to fry them in abundant olive oil too.
If you have mushrooms with large caps you can fill and bake them.
If young and little they are tasty raw. Cut them into slices lengthways and dress with olive oil, lemon juice, chopped parsley and a pinch of salt.
We recommend you not to eat great amount of mushrooms.
If dried they must soak them for at least 20 minutes in water and then cook according to the recipe directions.

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