Morel mushrooms are an edible type of wild mushrooms. These grow only for a short span during spring. The best part is that you can always preserve them for later use. Tastessence gives you some tips on how to clean and store morels for later use.
Morels are WILD!
- If you want to pick morels in the forest, you MUST go with an experienced person who knows the difference between poisonous and edible mushrooms.
- Morels may contain toxins, so when you’re eating it for the first time, eat it in very small amounts and wait for few hours to gauge your body’s reaction to it.
Morels belong to the genus Morchella―a group of edible mushrooms―and are also closely related to fungi. These mushrooms look very different, somewhat like honeycomb that has many pits and ridges, with the inner part being hollow. They are known by different names in different parts of the world. Names like dryland fish (the shape after sliced and cooked), molly moochers (in West Virginia), merkels or miracles (story that a family survived on them), and sponge mushroom (similar to Poriferasponges) are very common. There have been many recognized species, but the appearance of the morels makes it difficult to actually figure out which species it is.
Morels are considered closer to the animal family than that of plants, because of their parasitic tendency. The morels are seen growing everywhere―from forests to basements, wherever there is adequate moisture. They grow only for a short period in spring. They are used in many cuisines because of the varied taste they impart. Many people are seen hunting for them in the forests every year. A simpler way is to store them and enjoy them yearlong.
Note: Never ever eat these mushrooms raw. They are toxic to an extent and some species can be poisonous too. Always be sure of the species, and cooking will help get rid of their toxicity.
Morels grow at many places and most of all near dead plants, so always ensure that you clean them thoroughly. Because of the pores, dust can accumulate in them along with insects that are looking for shelter. There are various ways to clean morsels.
★ You can brush them with a paper towel if you think they are not very dirty.
★ Soaking morels in saltwater will remove all the dirt, but then it will make them mushy too. This method of cleaning is suitable if you plan to use them immediately. However, this option may not be suitable if you wish to store them for future use.
★ A rather quick and sure way is to just wash them under running cold water and using a toothbrush clean the pits, followed by drying.
★ Slicing the morels before cleaning is a good option if you want to make ensure that all the dust and insects have been removed. Trim the ends of the stems a little, and then slice the morels.
➤ The morels perish very quickly, so the storage place should be a cool and dry to prevent them from rotting.
➤ If stored properly, fresh morel mushrooms can survive for almost a week.
➤ Morels can be preserved for a short period of three days, by cleaning and then wrapping them loosely in a damp paper or cloth. Keep the wrapped mushrooms in a bowl and make sure you keep the cloth or paper damp so that the morels won’t dry out.
➤ The use of plastic bags to store mushrooms should be avoided. You should only use plastic bags if the morels are totally dry.
➤ This is a method that is used to preserve morels for a longer duration.
➤ Clean and cut the morels properly and just lay them out on a cookie sheet. Make sure that one doesn’t stick to the other. Place the sheet in the freezer for a few hours, and then you can transfer the frozen morels to an airtight container.
✱ In the above method, you can also dust the morels with flour to ensure that they don’t stick to each other.
Another method is to clean and slice the morels and then dip them in beaten eggs. Again dip in flour and fry them for only 2 minutes. Let them cool and then put them in a freezer bag or container. This method will retain its flavor perfectly.
➤ Drying morels can be done in a dehydrator. Use the lowest heat setting and keep them for a day. Just make sure that they don’t stick to each other, and ensure that there isn’t a lot of heat.
➤ You can also dry without a dehydrator by sun drying. Dry them for a couple of days, remember to get them inside at night.
➤ Dry them at home only under a fan. Keep doing this until the morels are completely dry. You can also use a needle and thread to string them and let them hang dry.
➤ You can also use an oven to dry them, but it is not advised often because this method can cause the morels to turn hard. In this method, make sure that the temperature doesn’t exceed 100°F.
➤ You can store the dried morels in jars, vacuum bags, and paper bags. As long as you keep the moisture away, the morels will last!
✱ For future use of dried morels, just soak them in boiling water for 15 minutes. They’ll soak the water and increase to their normal size, ready to be used.
Last but not the least, look out for any signs of rotting. If you see them turning abnormally black, putrid, or if they emit a weird odor, discard them immediately. Also, check for any web-like strands, which indicates mold growth.