Can morels and other mushrooms be
saved for future use? It is a question I hear often.
One day last week I became acutely aware that it was getting close to
lunch time (also known as hungry) and the thought of scrambled
eggs and sautéed morels ran though my mind. Finding the eggs
would be no problem, but we had not yet had the first report of morel finds
this spring. Where would I get the morels? Easy game, coach; the garage
One of the first items I found in the freezer was a package wrapped
in newspaper and taped tightly with Duck Tape. It was labeled "Morels,"
in big black letters. Unwrapping the package at the kitchen sink, I found
a plastic sandwich stuffed with gray morels that ranged from two to four
inches. They were frozen solid and even somewhat crusted with ice, but
there was no freezer burn.
Pulling and prying the mushrooms apart with my fingers and a dull knife,
I placed them in a six-inch non-stick skillet with about 1/16 (one-sixteenth
inch) of olive oil. The melting ice on the morels created a certain amount
of water, but when it cooked away the morels cooked nicely while being
turned almost constantly. Once the morels were well browned and tender,
I scrambled two eggs and combined the two for a sumptuous lunch--all the
more so, I thought, by the fact that the writing on the newspaper also
Can morels be preserved for future use? I reckon! And here's how: Generally,
there are two ways to preserve morels for future use--freezing and drying.
Each has its good and bad features. Of the two methods, freezing probably
is most popular, but drying morels works out well, especially for some
uses. But whether you take the freeze or dry route, mushrooms should be
cleaned up, split in half, and drained at the start. They should be as
if they would be fit for cooking and eating.
There are many ways to freeze morels for future use, but my favorite method
is simply to proceed as if they will be consumed immediately. However,
they are only half cooked, then placed on a cookie sheet and frozen solid.
When frozen, they should be placed in sandwich bags, wrapped in two or
three thicknesses of newspaper, taped tightly and returned to the freezer
with some kind of identifying marks on the package.
When ready to serve, simply complete the cooking procedure (frying or
sautéing most popular methods). Others place the mushrooms in some
kind of watertight container, fill the containers with water and freeze
them. I never look with jaundiced eye on mushrooms preserved in this manner
and later cook, but I do not use the method.
Still another popular method of freezing morels is to dredge them in
the flour of your choice, freeze them on a cookie sheet, and place them
in plastic bags to store in freezer after being wrapped in newspaper and
taped. The frozen morels are then cooked in the manner of you choice.
Drying morels is easy, especially if you own a food dryer. Just spread
the cleaned and well-drained morels in the dryer and stand by for some
pleasant odors to waft through the house. This, incidentally, may teach
you to think you smell mushrooms in the woods. I think I can smell them
Drying mushrooms is easy even if you do not have a food dryer. Just
string them on a piece of light copper wire--even grocery twine--and hang
them in the oven of your stove. Turn heat to warm and keep the oven door
open. You do not want to cook them, just draw out the moisture. [Click
to see illustration.]
I also have fashioned flats of screen wire and suspended them from rafters
in the attic This will keep mice from getting them while they are drying.
The thing to remember in drying morels is that you merely want to take
out the moisture.
Once dried (you can get a gallon of morels in a quart jar), it is a
good idea to freeze them, corked up tightly. But they will remain good
for many years just stored at room temperature in airtight plastic bags,
or any air-tight container.
A Tip or Two: When placing morels in plastic bags, the removal
of as much air as possible is advisable before freezing. There are some
pieces of equipment that will do this , but it is expensive stuff. If you
store in plastic bags you can create at least a partial vacuum by sucking
the air out with your mouth and lungs. Much of the air also can be extracted
from plastic bags by placing them on a hard surface and pressing the air