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How to Preserve Wild Morel Mushrooms

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C.S. Alexis enjoys hunting, eating, and preserving morel mushrooms, as well as sharing her tips about these delicious fungi.

This was the first mushroom in my yard in 2011 at the end of April.

This was the first mushroom in my yard in 2011 at the end of April.

What Is a Morel Mushroom, Anyway?

Many people have never heard of the morel mushroom, so I would like to give you a brief background on this delicious fungal creature. Mind you, my research has not gone in depth because I would much rather hunt for these wonderful little morsels than read about them. Still, here are a few things of interest about morels.

Where and How They Grow

  • They are found in the spring across the USA and also in Europe.
  • They seem to literally pop up from the ground after a spring rain.
  • Morels are most often found in the woods, but I have found them in unattended fields where cattle are grazing and along the roadside.
  • They do not seem to continue growing after they sprout up.
  • Morels have not been successfully cultivated, though many people have tried and are still trying.

Their Appearance

  • They range in size from very tiny to the size of a soda can.
  • They range in color from a light tan to a dark grey.
  • Morels look like a sponge or a corn cob that has dried.

Eating Morels

  • Morels should NEVER be eaten raw.
  • They are not closely related to other mushrooms; they're more like a truffle.
  • Morels have a taste that is somewhat nutty or smokey but very delicate in flavor.
  • There is no other food that I have experienced eating that has the flavor of a morel mushroom.

Three Ways to Preserve Your Excess Find

Drying

Morels can be dried and used for cooking in soups, stews and gravies. This is probably the easiest thing you can do if you have more mushrooms than you can eat. My aunt told me this was how her family use to keep them through the year when she was a youngster in Southern Indiana:

  1. They would thread each mushroom on a piece of heavy thread using a sewing needle and piercing through the stem. (I suggest not making the string more than 18" as the weight of the upper mushrooms will crush the first ones on the thread.)
  2. Then, they'd just hang them up in an airy place to dry. An enclosed porch is an ideal place, but it takes about 4 weeks to dry good.
  3. Then the mushrooms can be sealed into airtight containers and stored.

Freezing: Method 1

Some people put the mushrooms in plastic 1/2-gallon containers and fill them to cover with water. Then they freeze the entire container with a lid on it. I have seen this done in Missouri quite often. I find that the mushrooms are just too mushy after being frozen in water. It does work, but they're not as good as fresh picked and cooked.

Freezing: Method 2

My experimenting has lead me to store the excess mushrooms just as if I were going to cook them. I wash them, dip them, roll them, and then—instead of cooking—I freeze them.

How I Fix Morel Mushrooms to Eat and Store

Step 1: Soak and Rinse

First thing is to rinse the mushrooms real good. They usually have sand or dirt on them and might have a few bugs to boot.

  1. I remove the dirt ball from the stem with a sharp knife and put them in a bowl of very cold water to which I have added about a teaspoon of salt. I like to let them soak overnight in the fridge.
  2. The next day, I carefully rinse them in clean cold water to remove the saltwater and ant debris.

Step 2: Cut

Next I cut the mushrooms up. The small ones can be split from top to bottom, and the very large ones can be quartered or cut into bite-size pieces. I put them on a paper towel to drain real good.

Step 3: Batter

  1. For a batter, I mix an egg and about 1/4 cup of milk with a dash of salt.
  2. I dip the drained mushrooms into the egg mixture until well-coated.
  3. I let the excess egg mixture drip off of the mushrooms and then carefully toss them in a bag of flour until they are evenly coated. Now they are ready to cook or freeze.

Step 4: Cook

Most people cook the mushrooms in a frying pan in butter until they are golden, turning to cook each side. This is very good but also very rich.

They can also be fried in a deep fryer using a healthy oil that has a less oily taste such as canola or whatever you prefer. Morels have a delicate flavor, so it is wise to avoid heavy olive oil.

I know that when we cook up a mess of shrooms, we cook and eat as we go, and it is a beer-drinking mushroom party. Eat until you pop is the agenda. Some people have suggested to me that drinking and eating these mushrooms is not a good combination due to chemical reactions between the mushrooms and alcohol. This could be true, but I personally have never had a bad experience.

Step 5: Freeze the Leftovers

When we have eaten our fill, I just finish preparing all that is left over and lay them out on a metal cookie sheet to flash-freeze.

  1. Place the dipped and rolled mushrooms on the sheet so that they do not touch, in a single layer.
  2. Then pop them in the freezer for about an hour or two.
  3. When they are frozen solid, they can be transferred to a freezer box. I use a flat container with a tight-fitting lid. You can layer them up by placing a piece of waxed paper between the layers.
  4. Keep in the freezer for up to a year.

I tell you from experience that when you fry them up, you will think they were fresh-picked. Do not thaw them out; just get your skillet ready and drop them in the hot skillet or a deep fryer. Great eating!

Comments

C.S.Alexis (author) from NW Indiana on April 26, 2012:

Paula you are so right. Thanks for adding this tip to the comment section. I am all for encouraging next years crop...kuddos!

Paula E on April 26, 2012:

You mention cutting the root ball off. You should never pick the roots and all. You should pinch the the stem just above the roots and leave them in the ground. They will help grow more mushrooms the next year. You should also use a mesh bag while hunting them so the spores can spread through the bag and onto the ground to help grow more mushrooms the next year.

Mo_Doc on April 29, 2011:

I think its absurd to think you have be so covert when describing where to find Morels. Good grief, if the poor person is asking for simple pointers I think its an asinine attitude to take. Keeping your next door neighbor out of your favorite patch is one thing, helping out a newbie is something else.Its not like they are going to be hunting in the same place you are. Even if they are, if your in one of the huge fish & game areas or some state owned area, its highly unlikely you will run over one another.Share the wealth, don't be an arse :-)

BobfromOREGON on May 17, 2010:

We find lots out here in God's country but most "'shroomers" are pretty tight-lipped about where they find them. To us, it's like telling a gold-miner where we find our mother-lode!

As far as keeping them, I soak overnight in saltwater (you'll see the little bugs soaked out in the morning) and then I put them in one of those salad spinners to get the excess water out. Then, I place carefully in single layers separated by paper towels. I then place in the fridge and replace the paper towels every-other day. They'll keep up to 3 weeks that way--but watch for spoilage. I've nevr frozen any but might try it this year--it's been a bounty! (May 2010)

Jerod on May 13, 2010:

Thank you so much!! I grew up in Michigan chasing these little demons. My Father in law is like the master of finding these. I've never had to freeze any cause we all would eat them. Now Im Stationed in Germany and came across a culvert with a mother lode, so I picked 20 quarts+(I ran outta bucket space) in about an hour, now im swimming in mushrooms! Its the first time Ive ever been choosy with what they look like, lol! I want to go back for more but im lacking the storage space and I dont want to dry them (tastes pooey). 98% of the people here would just rather mow them under, its funny. Thank you for helping me out!!

Charlotte Anne from Iowa, USA on May 12, 2009:

I've never been brave enough to go mushroom hunting, but your post sure would be useful for somebody who does hunt mushrooms.

C.S.Alexis (author) from NW Indiana on May 09, 2009:

Carol Vance,

I would say you can keep them breaded and frozen for up to a year IF you have them packaged against freezer burn. What I do is layer them in a plastic dish that can be frozen with waxed paper between the layers of breaded mushrooms.

I have kept them longer without noticing any difference in quality.

kool kid on May 05, 2009:

I went hunting for these things. thay are good and i am adicted yo them

C. C. Riter on April 05, 2009:

I hear you. My god my mouth is watering jus thinking of them. love those morels, best of all

C.S.Alexis (author) from NW Indiana on April 04, 2009:

C.C.,

Sometimes Istring them but it is easier for me to act like I am frying them all up and sneak some in to the freezer when nobody is watching because they are too busy eating, right? Then they are ready to pop in the skillet in the dead of winter, almost orgasmic when snow is on the ground! A treat hard to beat.

C. C. Riter on April 04, 2009:

OMG, I love you! you're a shroomer too! Me too, so I dint need to read this. Grew up with 'em. It's almost time, can't wait for it hardly. Best time of year. I can't preserve them as my wife can't leave them alone. haha I prefr to just hang mine to dry and kep them hidden from wifey, but she always finds them. LOL thanks girl waitng for the mouse ear size oak leaves. yum

C.S.Alexis (author) from NW Indiana on June 10, 2008:

PRESERVE; as in to prepare for future consumption. The best quality results from freezing .

Sandra Andes on June 09, 2008:

How to freeze morel mushrooms?

donnaleemason from North Dakota, USA on May 25, 2008:

I love mushrooms and have many fond memories of trying to avoid the bulls while out in fields picking.

Zsuzsy Bee from Ontario/Canada on May 25, 2008:

I love them any which way. The morels have such a mild flavor they're a delicatessen. I've yet to find enough to have them last a full year in the freezer. I always put two large packets away for Christmas dinner and Newyears day breakfast.

Great hub regards Zsuzsy

funnebone from Philadelphia Pa on May 15, 2008:

yummmmm