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Drying Morel Mushrooms for Preservation
Drying Morel Mushrooms. It is Mid-May and for us in Minnesota, this signifies morel mushroom season! This is an exciting time of year because it is time to go out hunting for the so-called, “buried treasure.” This past weekend we were able to find approximately 35 morel mushrooms. Last year, we found just one, so this trip was a huge success for us. We will be drying and preserving our find and heading back out this weekend, to hopefully find more special treats. In this article, I wanted to provide you with some tips on looking for morels including the proper weather conditions, location and finally (if you are lucky enough to find the mother load) the best way to preserve your mushrooms for future use when the delicacy is long gone.
The Proper Conditions
If you want to go morel mushroom hunting too, here are a few tips that may help you out. The avid mushroom hunter can never give away their secret spot for locating the most delicious of all mushrooms, but we can provide tips on when to look and where to find them. The season is very short (no more than a month if the conditions are right, often less) and the mushroom has great camouflage ability so they are tricky to find.
- It’s time to hunt for morels when the lilacs and dandelions pop.
- Go hunting on a warm morning after a rain.
- You will find them in areas that have elm, oak, ash, poplar, apple or other decomposing trees and lots of mulch/compost on the ground like leaves. Usually the area is partly shaded and a little wet.
- Look carefully; where you find one, you should find several since they drop their spores. You could easily walk right by them and never know they existed.
- WARNING: Make sure you know what a morel looks like. Take a class or talk to an expert before eating them. There are false morels that are poisonous, so be sure to identify them before consuming. This goes for all mushrooms.
Preserving your Morels
Drying Morel Mushrooms. If you are lucky enough to find more morels than you can use, consider drying and preserving them. They will only last a few days in the refrigerator. For me, drying morel mushrooms with the food dehydrator is the answer. We can use them all year-long and the best part is, the flavor is almost identical to the fresh mushroom.
Let’s face it, morel mushrooms come packaged with bugs! The best way to get them out is by soaking your morels in one-half gallon of water mixed with 2 Tablespoons of salt. Don’t soak more than 10 minutes. Once done, rinse the mushrooms quickly and pat them dry. Some mushroom hunters will suggest that they never be washed, just brushed off. For me, I’m pretty sure that I would not be able to eat them, knowing that bugs were lurking inside. I cut mine in half since you may still find some pill bugs or ants buried in the crevices of the mushroom. I let them dry on a towel for several hours. Once dry, I just place them out on the drying sheets of my dehydrator. Be sure they are not touching or overlapping one another. I put about the same number on each sheet. My dehydrator has five layers. I set the heat at 125-135 which is the setting for fruits and vegetables. My drying time was overnight, so about 7 hours and they came out perfectly. I let them cool and then packaged them in a gallon zip lock bag and made sure to get out all the air. I then placed them in the freezer for future use.
Using Dried Morels
I plan to use my morels in pasta dishes and soup. I might also use them when I make vegetable fajitas. You can reconstitute them in a couple of ways.
- Take the amount of morels that you want to use for your recipe and soak them in water for 20 minutes. They will reabsorb liquid and come back to their normal size.
- Place them in boiling water or broth to reconstitute them. This is good method if you are using them in soup.
When I begin using my dried morels, I will post the recipes for you to try. Enjoy the mushroom hunting season!
If you do not have the time to go mushroom hunting try growing your own. Check out these wild mushrooms for sale and mushroom grow kits!
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