Delicious! Beautiful! Chicken of the Forest! These are just some of the words to describe the group of mushrooms called Chanterelles. There are a couple different varieties to look out for. White Chanterelle (Cantharellus subalbidus), Yellow Foot (Cantharellus tubaeformis), Pig's Ears (Gomphus clavatus), Scaly Chanterelle (Gomphus floccosus) (not edible), Black Trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioides), and Blue Chanterelle (Polyozellus multiplex), not to be confused with the late '90's RnB singer: Blu Cantrell
Now that could be a dangerous mistake!!!! Anyways! If you know the basic characteristics of the Chanterelle family you can usually identify them in the forest. To actually pick the different varieties, you should study them in detail with a trusty pocket mushroom book or an experienced picker.
In this group, the caps are a pretty vase-shaped, trumpet-shaped and/or wavy. Underneath, the gills are soft and fork-shaped, well spaced, shallow and often with connecting veins in between. They can range in color depending on the types (noted above), bright orange, yellow-orange, white, blue, black, yellow-brown to tan or olive-tinged. The most popular being Cantharellus cibarius, which are found on the ground under conifers and oaks from southeast Alaska right down to California, usually in groups or 'veins', which makes it so fun to find them! Like a treasure hunt. Other characteristics to look for is the medium to large cap, which is broadly domed to almost flat when they are young and their white flesh. Smell is a big one. I can always positively identify chanterelles by their apricot aroma. Its very subtle, but its there.
One thing to be aware of are the two poisonous look-alikes of chanterelles. Now, don't be put off, they are easy to identify if you are a careful hunter. The western jack-o-lantern mushroom has thinner, more crowded gills and no white flesh. The other, the false chanterelle, has thinner, oranger gills and browner cap. Look these up if you are a beginner.
One more thing before you get out there, cleaning chanterelles is always a doozie. You will probably come home with a huge bag full, if you're lucky! I take a knife and just skim all the slime (if any) and pine needles off in the sink. Don't let them soak in water, as they are like sponges and you'll end up with a soggy mess. Dry them off carefully and put 'em in a pan over medium heat. They will start to release some water (which can be reserved for soup broth). When they start to look shriveled, get the butter out and saute those babies! Yum, and good luck!
How to dry saute mushrooms
Some mushrooms like the Chanterelles and Boletus absorb lots of water. It is important when cooking these species to address this in order to avoid a mushy mushroom disaster.
It is really easy!!! All you do is heat an empty pan over medium heat. Do not add anything to the pan except the mushrooms themselves. Stir constantly and they will start to release their juices, you can either drain the juice or save it for a soup as mentioned earlier. This process should take about 10 minutes. When the mushrooms look like they have released most of their moisture than you can add anything you want, butter salt and pepper seem to do the trick just fine. Enjoy.