How to Preserve Morel Mushrooms
Morel mushrooms are one of the rarest, odd-looking types of wild mushrooms that you can eat. They resemble a honeycomb on a stick. Their strange, peculiar appearance may suggest that you should not even think about consuming them. However, they are good enough to eat. They have a unique taste that is surprisingly good.
Morels are related to the expensive truffle mushrooms, which foodies and chefs regard as something priceless.
The flavor of morels can be described as something smoky, nutty, and earthy. The unique flavor alone is enough to make it a star of any dish.
The honeycomb texture makes the dish more appetizing. If you are a fan of shiitake mushrooms, you will surely enjoy eating morels.
Sadly, you will not be able to enjoy savoring morels for a long time. They often last for just a few weeks.
There are some years when people don’t even get a chance to harvest morel mushrooms. Luckily, there are methods on how to preserve morel mushrooms and enjoy them all-year-round.
It is easy to learn how to preserve morel mushrooms. You can dry or freeze morel mushrooms at home. You can store the dried morel mushrooms in air-tight containers and keep them at room temperature. They can last up to half a year. If you want to make your dried morels last longer, you can keep the containers in the freezer. You simply need to re-hydrate the dried morels when you need to use them in your dishes, such as morel risotto or sautéed morels.
You need to clean the morel mushrooms a bit more than most of the other varieties of mushrooms. You need to make sure that they are thoroughly cleaned before you dry or freeze them. Wiping them with a damp towel is not enough to get rid of the grit inside the sponge-like head of the morel mushrooms.
You need to soak the morels in cold water and swish them around to force the tiny pebbles out of the grooves of the head of each morel mushroom. Remove the morels out of the water, leaving the dirt behind. Drain the morels and pat them dry using clean kitchen towels or paper towels. You are now ready to dry or freeze your morels.
There are four ways that you can preserve your morels through drying and freezing.
Method 1: How to air dry morel mushrooms
You don’t need to use any equipment to do this method, except for some sewing supplies. You need to string the morels together and hang them to dry. You will need a large yarn needle or darning needle as well as unflavored or unwaxed dental floss, coat button thread, or quilting thread to string the morels together.
Make sure that the morels are thoroughly cleaned before you thread the needle and string the mushrooms lengthwise. Make a knot at each end of the string to prevent the morels from slipping out. Make a half-inch space between each mushroom to allow air to flow around each morel. You may need to prepare more than one string of morels.
After you string all the mushrooms, hang the stringed morels in a cool, dry area. Let them stay there until they become completely dry and brittle. This usually takes at least two days and up to seven days.
Method 2: How to dehydrate morel mushrooms
If you have a food dehydrator at home, you will learn to appreciate it more when drying your morels. The food dehydrator does a good job in drying the morels nicely.
Once you cleaned the morel mushrooms well, pat them dry using the paper or kitchen towels to remove the excess water. Spread the mushrooms in a single layer on the drying racks. Use the 110 degrees Fahrenheit setting on the dehydrator and dry the mushrooms for around 10 hours.
Method 3: Drying them in the oven
Drying your morels in your oven is easy to do. If you own an oven and you are willing to keep it running for several hours on a very low setting, this method of drying morel mushrooms is for you.
After cleaning your morels, put the cooling racks on the baking sheets. Arrange the mushrooms on top of the cooling racks. You can also string the mushrooms (see the procedure in air-drying the morels) and tie the mushrooms by the stem to the racks of the oven. You need to make the mushrooms hang down from the racks of the oven. Put the racks back inside the oven.
Whether you spread or hang the mushrooms, you need to heat the oven between 130 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the morels sit in the oven for about 8 hours or until the mushrooms are completely brittle and dry.
Method 4: how to freeze morel mushrooms
No matter how you prepare your morels, you should always clean them thoroughly. After cleaning the mushrooms, cut them in half. You may soak them in saltwater to get rid of bugs that might be taking residence within the sponge-like head of the morels. However, there are claims that morels turn soggy when soaked in saltwater. You may opt for a little soaking if you want. Rinse the mushrooms and drain. Inspect each mushroom for bugs before you roll them in a big bowl of flour until each mushroom is fully coated.
Put the mushrooms on a tray and freezer for a couple of hours. Transfer the frozen morels in a Ziploc bag and make sure to spread them in a single layer – no overlapping. Eliminate the excess air or vacuum pack the bag if possible. Put the bag in a container that can protect the morels from being crushed.
Rehydrating and Defrosting the Preserved Mushrooms
Put the mushrooms, which you are going to use, in a bowl that is big enough to contain them. Cover the bowl of mushrooms with water. Wait for the morels to turn soft and supple – this takes about 20 minutes. You can use the soaking liquid in your dish. You may also use it to make a vegetarian broth.
To defrost the frozen mushrooms, simply transfer them from the freezer to the refrigerator. Leave it there for an hour to allow the morels to defrost slowly.
If after an hour the mushrooms still look frozen, you don’t need to worry and just use them to your dish. It is safe to use as long as they were given time to defrost for an hour.
You may want to soak the dried morels in boiling water if you are making pasta sauce or risotto. Boiling the morels brings out more of the mushrooms’ earthy flavor to mix well into the liquid, which you can use for your sauce or risotto.
Now that you have learned how to preserve morel mushrooms, you will have the chance to get them any day of the year.