With the spring mushroom season bearing down on Indiana and other Midwestern
states, one of the big questions that flits through the heads of
“morelers” revolves around preserving this delicacy for later use.
Let’s just say that you found the mother lode of morels and have eaten
your fill and shared your good fortune with friends. But there still are
plastic bags of morels and other containers in the frig.
Whatcha gonna do with them?
Morels and many other members of the fungi tribe keep well for a week
or two in the frig. But there is nothing more sad and perplexing than finding
a container of wild mushrooms that have soured or molded and must be trashed.
Morels can be preserved for later use in many ways. They can be dried or
frozen, and there are several methods of doing both.
But before you do anything with morels, they should first be processed
(cleaned) as soon as it is convenient after you get them home. The purpose
for cleaning morels is the same as it is when you are dealing with other
edible plants or the many species of wild game or fish. The product is
simply made ready for use, most often on the table as food.
The first thing I do with morels when I get them home is to place them
in a large container in the kitchen sink. I run cold tap water on them
and allow them to soak for some time, occasionally adding more cold water
to wash foreign matter (including small mites, insects, grass and twigs)
out of the container. To bring this about I stir them occasionally with
When the morels have soaked for a while, I turn the cold water on again
and run it over each morel as I slice them in half from cap to the end
of the stem. Once cut in half and rinsed well, I place the morel halves
in a strainer to drain excess water. When well drained, I place the morel
halves in plastic bags and refrigerate them.
Taking first things first, we now offer methods of preparing morels
for the table.
My favorite method for cooking morels is to heat up my old iron skillet
and melt enough butter to cover its bottom 1/8 (one-eight) inch deep. Olive
oil, margarine or any other cooking agent will work, including bacon fryings.
While this is going on I pulverize a cup of good crackers (I use Keebler
Club crackers . . . the crackers in the green box with yellow letters).
I mix that 50-50 with all-purpose flour.
Also, while the skillet is getting hot, I break an egg or two in a shallow
bowl (cereal bowl works well), and mix it well with an equal part of milk.
When the butter sizzles a small cracker crumb, it is time to cook. Dip
large mushroom halves individually in the egg/milk mixture, and coat them
with the cracker/flour mix. Small mushroom halves can be dipped and coated
by the handful to speed the process.
Place the coated mushroom halves in the skillet and position them so
each half will be flat against the bottom of the skillet and exposed to
the cooking agent. To achieve this, with a plastic turner I gently press
the mushroom halves against the skillet and sprinkle them with salt and
pepper. At this point, frying mushrooms should have your undivided attention.
When the halves are well browned on the first side, they are turned over
and the process is repeated. More of the cooking agent may (should)
be added for the second sides.
I use several methods of freezing and drying morels for future use,
but I prefer freezing if the morels are to be fried when prepared for the
table. However, drying morels is a good way to preserve them if they are
to be used in scrambled eggs, soups, stews or gravies.
There are numerous methods of freezing morels, but my favorite is to
treat them as though they will be consumed at that time. But I stop halfway
on each side, and blot them with paper towel to remove excess cooking agent.
Then the morel halves are placed on a cookie sheet and frozen. The bags
of frozen halves are wrapped in two or three thicknesses of newspaper and
taped tightly to avoid freezer burn. But even with these precautions it
is difficult to keep the morels for periods longer than one year.
When preparing morels frozen in this manner for the table, I just finish
the frying process until the halves are well browned on both sides, starting
when the halves still are frozen.
Drying morels for later use is simple for those who have a food dryer.
You just spread the halves out on the trays and plug in the dryer. Morel
halves can also be dried by stringing them on a cotton twine with a big
needle and suspending them in a warm oven with the door ajar. Dried
morels can be stored for long periods of time in airtight containers, frozen
or in cool, dark places.
thumbnail image for enlarged view.
shrink when dried, as these pictures illustrate, but they retain their
taste and pleasant odor.