Let's say you just went mushroom hunting- and were lucky enough to find a huge bounty of morel mushrooms.
Maybe you've even found the "mother lode."
I know you love to cook and eat fresh morel mushrooms, but what happens when you have such a bounty of riches that you couldn't possibly finish them all?
What's the most effective way to store morel mushrooms?
The good news is, you have options. Let's go over the top three methods that you can use to store morel mushrooms for the long term.
Take Care When Harvesting
The first step to properly preserving your morel mushroom bounty is to make sure they aren’t ruined before you even get them home!
Have you ever noticed how mushrooms at the grocery store are always packed in a paper bag?
That's because mushrooms have a super high moisture content, and storing them in plastic bags can cause them to become rubbery, mushy, and eventually unusable.
The same rules apply when foraging for wild mushrooms. The best bet is to collect your morels in a wicker basket or a paper bag.
Also- it kind of goes without saying... make sure you know what you are looking for! There are some poisonous mushrooms that could be misidentified as a morel, especially if its your first time.
Short Term Storage
If you only need to store your morels for a day or two, they can easily be kept in the fridge.
Simply wrap them in paper towel and place them in a bowl in the fridge.
They will stay good for at least a couple of days. Just make sure you don’t place them in a sealed container... again, these mushrooms have to be allowed to breath if you want them to stay good for more than a few hours.
Long Term Storage
If you don’t plan on cooking your morels for a few days, then you need to look at other options for long term storage. Luckily, properly prepared morels can be dried or frozen, and will reconstitute quite nicely, retaining most of their wonderful flavor.
Here, we're going to look at three different ways to do it.
- A Simple Dehydration
- Batter and Freeze
- Sauté and Freeze
But First, Clean Your Morels
No matter how you decide to store your mushrooms, you really should clean them first. Some people think cleaning morels is a sin- but I disagree. Morels will often be covered in dirt and infested with bugs.
Getting the dirt and bugs off is easy... and doesn’t degrade the flavor of the mushroom- so I can’t see why you wouldn’t do it.
Step 1: Cut The Morels In Half Lengthwise
Morels are hollow on the inside. Cutting them in half will allow you to see if they are harboring any bugs, worms, or other creepy crawlies. Also, for novice mushroom hunters, cutting them in half and seeing a hollow stem and connected can help confirm identification.
Step 2: Soak In Cool Salt Water
Mix up a bowl of cool water and toss in 1-2 tsps of sea salt. Toss in your morels and let them soak for 3-5 minutes, agitating the fruits a few times to help loosen up the dirt. This will hopefully kill any bugs, and should get all the dirt off. Follow up by giving each morsel a quick rinse under cold water using a colander.
Now you've got some clean morels ready for preservation!
Some people like to soak the mushrooms overnight, but I don’t think that this is necessary. The mushrooms become rubbery and lose much of their flavor without any added benefit.
If the mushrooms are clearly not very dirty at all with no visible dirt or bugs, you can always just brush them off, give them a quick rinse, and skip the soaking.
Method 1: Dehydrate
Dehydrating is definitely the easiest way to store morel mushrooms.
Many methods can work, as long as you get the morels “cracker dry."
No need for a hygrometer- if they feel dry enough that they break when you snap them, then you’re good to go.
This will ensure that the moisture content is low enough that no bacterial growth or other will occur (typically this is <10% water content).
The easiest way to ensure complete dehydration is to use a tray dehydrator. (We use one like this) Simply place the mushrooms evenly on the trays, set the temperature to low (around 110 deg F) and let it run for 8-10 hours.
Obviously, the smaller your mushrooms are, the faster they will dry. Try to ensure that each piece is around the same size so that they dry out evenly.
Once they are fully dry, you can store them in a mason jar or other airtight container in the cupboard. Don’t place them in the fridge once they are dry.
Other Methods for Drying Morels
If you don’t have a dehydrator, don’t fret- you can just as easily dry them in the oven.
Place them in a tray and set the oven on the lowest possible setting, with the door open a crack. Leave them in there for about 4-6 hours, or until completely dry. Many Ovens will still be too hot at the lowest setting, and you don't want to end up cooking your morels. Aim for lower than 140 F, or use the "warm" setting if you have one.
You can also just lay them on a screen and dry them in the sun. Some mushrooms increase there vitamin D content drastically when exposed to sunlight- although I am not sure if this is the case with morels.
If you want to maintain the shape of the morel, you can also dehydrate them in the sun or in a well ventilated area over a number of days by running some string through the morels and hanging them.
This can also be done in the oven, but obviously make sure that you use poultry string or something that can withstand being in the oven.
What Do They Taste Like When Rehydrated?
Although they won’t be as good as fresh, dry morels actually reconstitute quite nicely. When you are ready to use them, soak them in water, cream, or broth to rehydrate, and then add them to your favorite recipe.
Method 2: Batter and Freeze
Morels can also do quite well in the freezer. But you wouldn’t want to just toss them in the freezer as soon as you get them home.
After the mushrooms are cut in half and washed, roll them flour until they are fully coated. The flour will easily adhere to the wet morels.
Then, lay them on a tray and freeze them overnight.
Once they are frozen solid, you can pick them off the tray and store them in a freezer bag. The reason you want to freeze them first on a tray is because otherwise they will freeze into a giant clump and be harder to use when you eventually want to cook them.
Morels prepared like this will stay good in the freezer for many months. Since all you did was roll them in flour, they can be added to almost any of your favorite recipes with ease.
Method 3: Sauté and Freeze
This is Tegan’s favorite method, and is the best way to ensure they keep as much of the original flavor and texture as possible.
Once the morels are cut and washed, sauté them in a little butter (or butter alternative) until they release their water. This should only take about 3-5 minutes of cooking time.
Once the sauté is done, let them cool, toss them into a freezer bag and put them into the freezer.
Obviously, they will freeze into a solid clump, so be sure to portion it out into something that you will use in one meal.
Do Not Eat Raw Morels
No matter how you store or cook your morels, be sure to never eat them raw.
Morchella species of all types are thought to contain varying levels of hydrazine, a compound which is seriously poisonous to humans. Because of this, all raw morel mushrooms should be considered toxic.
Luckily, this compound is destroyed through cooking.
Always thoroughly cook your morels!
Canning Morel Mushrooms
A lot of people seem to think that you can't can morels (can't can?), as they “release toxins that will remain after canning”.
As far as I can tell, this is just plain wrong, and is “common knowledge” that isn’t really based on anything. The only real risk is improper canning that can breed bacteria, or accidentally canning a truly poisonous species.
Morel mushrooms are made suitable for eating through heat- whether they are cooked or canned. Small morels that are properly processed in a pressure canner at 10-15 PSI for 45-60 minutes should be good.
You might need longer for larger mushrooms. Best bet is to follow canning instructions for typical button mushrooms.
Still, canning should be taken seriously. Anything that is improperly canned can make you seriously sick, so be sure you are comfortable with canning in general.
-spread the spores-