"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Saving Morels and Other Mushrooms for Future Use
Copyright © 2001 by Bill Scifres
3/28/01

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 freezer.

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 said "1993."

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.

Freezing Morels: 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: 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 at times.

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 here 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 out gently.
 

 


 
All columns are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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