It is a rather hypothetical question, but many
people want to know how to preserve mushrooms at this time of year, with
the presumption that they will find enough to save some for winter.
Being the owner for many years of a Harvest Maid
food dryer, I must say from the outset that a good food dryer will simplify
drying (if that is your cup-o-tea). But drying with a food dryer is by
no stretch of the imagination the only way to get the job done. It is,
however, the easiest.
In reality, there probably are as many ways to
dry morels as there are sparrows or Heinz soups. And they all probably
For example, at one of the houses I have owned
it was fairly easy to access the attic and during the warm months it was
like an oven up there. Thus, I fashioned a hammock-like contraption (about
five feet long and three feet wide) and strung it in my attic between solid
points in roof construction.
About this time of year (the morel season), I
would load the makeshift hammock down with morel halves and later in spring
or summer place the dried halves in a topped mayonnaise jar for freezing
or just pantry. Freezing tends to bring freezer burn.
Incidentally, what a beautiful odor it is, I soon
found, to unscrew that lid for a legitimate, good ole country high.
These morels, of course, were used mostly in stews,
soups, and gravies. But they could (can) be rehydrated and fried. Even
if they don’t match freshly picked fried morels, they still will raise
I like glass or crockery better than plastic,
probably because of the stigmas attached to storing food in plastic.
I also have used my wife’s kitchen stove oven
for drying morels and other mushrooms. It keeps my feet on the floor, and
speeds up the process.
It’s easy. Just fashion a brace of hooks from
paper clips or sturdy wire and tie one end of the twine (or braided cloth
fishing line) to one of the hooks. Install a big needle to the other end
of the twine, and string mushroom pieces or halves on the twine. Replace
the needle with the other hook and suspend
it in the oven. Heat should be very low, and the door to the oven should
be partially open.
Then, of course, there is the sun. Mushrooms will
dry in the sun, as evidenced by wild ones over-the-hill. This only requires
hot, dry days and a clean base protected from birds and other critters.
Occasionally, we all see morels dried up on their stem. Take them from
the damp earth and the elements will be on your side.
Another popular preservation method at my house
is to dip halves or pieces in a 50-50 mix of egg and milk, roll them in
a 50-50 mix of cracker meal and flour (maybe even some cornmeal), and fry
them halfway on both sides in butter. Then, dry them a bit with paper towel
and freeze them in foil in layers (towel between layers). When used, I
place thawed morels in a skillet with a smattering of butter and finish
the frying process.
For short-term storage, I simply place the morel
pieces (well washed and drained) in a glass container with a top--even
a plastic bag--and keep them refrigerated and dry. Too much moisture will
bring about molding, even in a frig.
To prepare morels for frying or drying, I cut
them lengthwise in halves (big ones in quarters). I eat stems. Then I soak
them in cold tap water and allow the container to run over slowly a few
minutes to wash out mites and insects that live in the caps and stems.
Drainage makes morels ready to be fried or stored for later use.
Years ago a man called me at work late in the
day to ask if is OK to eat morels that have little mites and bugs in stems
“Sure,” I replied, “Just wash out the mites
and insects and damn the torpedoes . . . “
“Hey, Marge!” I heard him yell. “Has the trash
man gone past?”
“Yes! He’s gone!” I heard Marge yell.
The phone was silent for a few seconds, then I
heard the man calmly, but explicitly, breathe an oath.
The phone went dead.