Morel - Morchella
This is where I will tell you all about my personal experiences harvesting, cleaning, freezing, dehydrating and cooking wild Morels. I hesitate to call them mushrooms as they are not truly mushrooms but they are a prized and delicious fungi that holds a very special place in our kitchen.
In the field
Morels are notoriously one of the most difficult fungi to forage. They are so good at camouflaging themselves into the landscape. They are usually a dull color that blends right in as well as looking a bit like the pine cones they are often surrounded by in the Pacific Northwest.
These delicious gems do have some very poisonous species that look similar so be certain you have properly identified them before bringing them home and cooking them. Never eat Morels uncooked as they are toxic.
Morels that have become very dry or those that have rotten spots should be left in the field. Usually when I find one that is in either state, the entire morel has too much of a bug problem for me to care to eat. It will also infect any other Morel it comes into contact with and just like a bad apple, it can spoil the whole bunch.
More to Come - This is a work in progress so check back for more recipes and Morel Adventures from our upcoming 2023 Spring mushroom Season!
We can't wait for this season to begin. It's still too cold for Morels to start popping but the snow pack and rains are sure to bring us lots of spring fungi!
I love that Morel are easy to clean. While picking, I usually cut them off at the base leaving the bottom and all of it's dirt and debris on the ground. You can pull them up if you like but do remove the dirty bottom with a knife before adding your treasure to your basket to help keep the rest tidy.
When you have them home, transfer them to a paper bag and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook or otherwise prepare them. They are also quite happy hanging out like that for several days. If they look like they are drying out, add a damp paper towel to the bag if you haven't got the time to prepare them in some way.
When you are ready to prepare them, simply cut them in half and let them soak for a few minutes then give them a quick brush with a soft bristled toothbrush if they still have anything left in the crevice's. Set them out to dry until you are ready to finish preparing them.
Dehydrating and Freezing
I have never experienced morels becoming waterlogged. They get wet and then they dry fairly quickly. If anything, I'm more concerned they will dry out. That said, Morels lend themselves quite well to dehydrating. I use an Excalibur dehydrator and dry them after cleaning them. This usually takes 12 to 18 hours depending on size and quantity. I set the dehydrator on a fruit setting of about 135 degrees.
After they are sufficiently dried, I store them in canning jars in a cool dark place until I am ready to rehydrate them in warm water for 15 - 30 minutes before cooking. Save the liquid from rehydrating for use in your recipe if it calls for any liquid.
I also like to freeze them individually on sheet trays that I have lined with parchment paper. Be sure to cook them directly from frozen, do not thaw them. The texture when cooked from frozen is so close to fresh you would never know they were ever frozen.
After they are frozen, usually overnight, I put them in a freezer bag and I can retrieve only what I intend to cook at any given time.