Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Storing your harvest for the rest of the year...

I posted this last year at the end of the season but for those who have missed it, here are the ways that I store my morels so I can eat them throughout the year. In case you hit the motherlode in the next few days here are some good tips to follow.

Drying morels

Whether you use an actual food dehydrator or just a heated room, like me, drying is one of the best ways to preserve your morels. Drying morels really concentrates the flavor and if dried properly they can last 3-5 years in storage. I dry mine simply by laying them out on old food dehydrator trays in a small room with baseboard heating that I can keep at a constant 95 degrees. Usually takes 2 days until they are completely dry. I don't turn them or rotate trays or anything and have never had bad results. Although simple a few things can go wrong but if you take some simple steps you can ensure success.

First, never wash or soak any morels you plan to dry. The dirt, bugs and gunk usually falls off once dried or you can rinse them thoroughly once rehydrated. If you soak the morels and then try to dry them often times you'll come back to find that they have turned somewhat translucent and are not good when rehydrated. I tend to dry smaller mushrooms usually ones found earlier in the year while still in their grey state. They make excellent soups, sauces, stocks and stews.

Second, never rush the drying process. I don't know how many times I have heard people say they dried a nice batch of morels and stored them only to come back and find a gnarly threadlike mess of mold and other fungi had destroyed their hard work. It even happened to me a few times with other types of mushrooms. So, always make sure that they are completely dry before packing them away for storage. All it takes is one partially dried mushroom to spoil a batch.

Which leads me to my final tip, always store your dried batch in airtight (and lightproof if possible) containers in the freezer. Air, light, and heat are the three things that will break down dried mushrooms. I store mine in dark mason jars. The jars hold up well against freezer burn and do not allow the mushrooms to get crushed like freezer bags (though those work just fine). I have stored morels for up to five years this way and the ones that were five years old tasted the same as the ones I dried only the year before. So if you have a bumper crop this is a good way to make sure you have some in future years when the pickings are more lean.

Flash fry and freeze

Drying is good, but if you are like me and what you really crave during the year is the taste of nice fresh fried ones, then drying just won't cut it. Once rehydrated and fried dried morels are chewy and lose that meaty consistency. But do not fret, there is a great way to prepare and store morels that not only makes them accessible all year, but very easy to enjoy. Here is what you do.

Simply clean, cut and prepare your morels like you would normally. This method works best when using a light coating, so if you usually batter your morels or dip them in egg/cookie crumbs it may be more difficult. I just clean mine, roll them in some seasoned flour and fry them up in butter. This method works very well for that.

Anyway, once you have them ready to go, simply fry them up like you normally would except only saute them for about 3 minutes on each side. After that remove them from the pan and place them on cookie sheets lined with wax paper. Be sure that they are not touching. Once the sheet is full of partially fried morels, pop it in the freezer and remove it after an hour or so. You can now peel off the individually frozen morels and store them in freezer bags. When you want some, you just take the amount you want and throw them right in a pan of hot butter and finish cooking them - instant gratification.

At the start of this season, I fried up what I had left over from last year along with some fresh ones and I had a real heard time guessing which was which in a blind taste test. If kept sealed properly they usually last about a year before freezer burn starts to set in, but most often they are long gone before then.

3 comments:

Scott said...

I'm interested in foraging in the larger, non-mushroom sense as well. Know of anyone who does tours or blogs about this? Thanks in advance

Emily said...

Do you have any favorite recipes? We're hosting a mushroom recipe contest (using ANY kind of mushroom)- the winner will be mailed two lbs. of fresh, Morels. If so, please submit to http:marxfood.com

d said...

I learened the flash fry and freeze metod a few years ago and it works great, taste like you picked um yesterday.