While a part of the culinary world is obsessed with morel mushrooms, the other half have never heard of them.
Just like the name, morel mushrooms are a very unusual member of the mushroom family. They are rare, strange to look at, and have a very distinctive and specific taste. It’s hard to recreate that flavor in any other way.
In this article, we will explore what morel mushrooms are, how to store them, and many ways to enjoy this wonderful ingredient. If you are even a little bit intrigued, keep on reading!
Morel Mushroom: What Exactly Is It?
Morel mushrooms are considered to be a delicacy in many chefs’ kitchens. They are a highly desired ingredient due to their rarity and distinctive flavors.
But what is a morel mushroom? Well for starters, they are a type of wild mushrooms that are not farmed.
Many farmers have tried to cultivate morels but it just doesn’t work. They grow naturally which means we have no control over how much morels can be collected in each season. Due to this, they are always a rare thing and are extremely expensive.
Morel mushrooms are grown in warm and wet climates. Most of the world’s morels are collected from North America and Europe.
Funny thing is, if you live in a wooded area in Europe, chances are you came by morels at some point in your life. But as they are not very noticeable, you just didn’t realize it. Fancy that!
Morel mushrooms come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can look round or oblong to bulbous. The outside of the morels looks almost like honeycombs. They have a greyish blonde color to them.
At first glance, morels do not look like something you want to eat. They almost look poisonous. If you are trying to look for morels by yourself, be careful as there are other mushrooms that look like morels but are extremely poisonous. So be careful with that.
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Can You Freeze Morel Mushrooms?
You can definitely freeze morel mushrooms and enjoy them throughout the year. As it’s a seasonal ingredient and is quite expensive, storing them in the freezer is a great idea. Here’s our easy step-by-step guide on freezing morel mushrooms:
- Clean your morels first. As they have a honeycomb texture. Dirt can get stuck inside a lot. So clean them properly.
- You can slice the mushrooms in half but we prefer to keep them intact.
- Now it’s time to cook your mushrooms. Boil a big pot of water and add a tablespoon of lemon juice to it. Then blanche the mushrooms for 3 minutes or until they are almost done but not fully done.
Cook them to 70%. You can also steam your mushrooms to keep as much flavor as possible. The cooking time is similar although stemming can take 5 minutes.
- After it’s done cooking, remove from the heat immediately and let them cool down completely.
- Then put them in a cookie sheet and freeze until they are rock hard. Then transfer the mushrooms to a freezer bag and store them in the freezer. Frozen morels can last for a few months.
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Freeze Drying Morels: The Most Efficient Method
Did you know you can keep morel mushrooms for more than 20 years by freeze-drying them? Sounds impossible but that’s actually true.
If you have a freeze dryer, this is the best and most efficient method of keeping morel mushrooms fresh for years.
Not only does freeze-drying keep your morels fresh for years, but it also keeps up to 95% nutritional values intact.
You might be skeptical and thinking “oh, 20 years? They must taste horrible after so long in the freezer”. But actually, no. A freeze-dried morel is indistinguishable from a fresh one. What excuse do you have to not freeze-dry them?
How to Dry Morel Mushrooms
You can dry your morels to keep them in an airtight container for months. We love this method because it’s very easy to do. If you like to make a lot of mushroom soups or gravy, this is the best method for you.
Drying morels is easy, here’s how to do it:
- Clean your morel mushrooms thoroughly. Then use a napkin to apt dry them as much as possible.
- Grab a sewing needle and thread and make a sort of mushroom necklace out of it. Pierce through the steam and make sure to keep the morels distant from each other. Don’t make it longer than 15”.
- Then hang it somewhere with an open window. Keep it airy so it dries properly and doesn’t get moldy.
- It might take a few weeks to dry but once they dry down, all you have to do is store them in an airtight container.
- Keep the container sealed to prevent any bacteria from growing inside. This method is great if you don’t have the option to freeze them.
Defrosting Your Morel Mushrooms
Defrosting morel mushrooms is actually pretty simple. One thing you don’t want to do is microwave them. Never microwave your morels. It’s a sin!
Okay not being overdramatic but microwaving actually destroys the delicious nutty flavor and texture of the morel mushrooms. You should not leave them on the countertop either.
So what to do then?
You can transfer your morel mushrooms from the freezer to the fridge and let them sit for a few hours. Depending on the amount, it will take around 1 hour to completely defrost. Then all you have to do is pat them dry and use them on any recipes needed.
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The Taste of Morels: Distinctive and Unique
There is a reason why morels are such a cherished ingredient among chefs. You can not recreate the flavor of morels in any other way. They do not taste like mushrooms per se. The flavor is closer to truffles but with a better texture.
The taste of morels can be described as nutty and smoky. It’s not intense in any way. The flavor profile is actually very delicate.
One thing you should keep in mind is to never eat raw morels. Raw morels can cause cramps, stomach issues, and heartburn. So cooking them fully is important.
But, Why are Morels So Expensive Though!
Yes yes we get it, morels are very unique and one of a kind. But does that justify its high price? Why is a pound of morel mushroom a minimum of $20? Well, there are a few reasons behind this:
- Cultivation: We have already discussed it. You can not actually cultivate morel mushrooms by yourself. It is a seasonal mushroom that only grows in the wild.
It’s totally random and we don’t control how much they grow. When you can’t cultivate something and have to depend on nature, of course, it’s not going to be available in abundance
- Rarity: Morel mushrooms are quite rare to come by. They do not grow just anywhere. And even when they grow, the amount is not very much.
This means you always have to look for them and travel great distances to find them. No wonder they are so expensive!
- Transportation: Morels do not transport well. As they have a hollow body, they can easily get damaged. So from collecting them to transporting them to the market can be very difficult.
How to Prepare Morel Mushrooms
Step 1: Clean Them
Cleaning morel mushrooms properly is very important and can be quite tricky. As the exterior is textured and almost honeycomb-like, dirt and mud can collect in between the crevices. Here’s how to clean morel mushrooms properly:
- Pour cold water into a large bowl and add a tablespoon of salt to it. You can also add lemon juice.
- Dunk the morels into the water and let them soak for a few minutes.
- Use a soft brush to gently wipe off any excess dirt. Then rinse them under the sink one by one. This helps to remove the salt and debris.
Step 2: Cut the Morels
Preparing morel mushrooms also includes cutting them. If you are planning to add them to stews or soup, make chunky pieces out of them. You can also cut them in two pieces and split them in the middle. Then use a paper towel to gently remove any excess moisture from them.
Step 3: Deep Frying
We love deep frying our morel mushrooms as it tastes amazing. The flavor is nothing like you have ever tasted before.
We like to keep the batter simple. So we use a mixture of egg, milk, salt, and all-purpose flour. Make a thin batter and dip each mushroom. Then fry them in a deep fryer until they turn golden brown. You really don’t need a lot of time. Just 3-4 minutes is enough.
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Best Way To Cook Morel Mushrooms
There are a lot of ways to enjoy this top-tier mushroom but we love the simplicity of a classic mushroom sauce with steak. They taste very rich and smoky. As morels have a delicate flavor, we don’t recommend using olive oil. Use butter or canola oil to keep its natural fragrance intact.
It’s better to keep it simple when it comes to morels. They truly shine when you use only a few ingredients. So try to pan-fry them with butter and salt. Add a little pepper to enhance the flavors.
You can make a wild mushroom sauce with morels that taste fantastic with BBQs. The honeycomb texture absorbs any liquid or cream and into the sauce. So be generous with the butter as the morels will soak it all up,
Is It Safe to Eat Morel Mushrooms?
We can understand why someone would be skeptical about morels. They look odd and poisonous. Interestingly, they are far from it.
Don’t be fooled by the looks as morels are high in zinc, vitamins, iron, manganese, and a lot of other nutrients. They have potassium, calcium, copper, niacin, vitamin B6 and E. s they are amazing for our health. If you have heart issues or high blood pressure, morels are a healthy source of proteins.
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Frequently Asked Questions
01. How Long Do Frozen Morels Last?
This is going to surprise you, but frozen morels last up to 20 years in the freezer! If you properly freeze-dry your morel mushrooms they can retain over 95% of their nutritional value.
02. Can You Freeze Fresh Mushrooms for Later Use?
Yes, you can definitely freeze fresh mushrooms and keep them stored in the freezer for months. If you properly seal, dry, and pack them, frozen mushrooms can last more than a year in the freezer.
You can easily add frozen mushrooms to any dish, gravy, or soup. They taste very similar to fresh mushrooms after defrosting.
03. Do Morels Grow in the Same Spot Every Year?
Yes, morels actually grow in the same place every year. If you pick your morels properly and leave some spores behind, morels will keep growing year after year on the same spot.
Morels enthusiasts have their “honeypot” morels-growing-places that they don’t share with anyone. Morels usually grow on the same spot for 3-4 seasons. When all the spores dry up, you need to find a new spot to collect morels.
04. How Fast Do Morels Grow after Rain?
Morels grow super fast after rainfall. You might see tiny heads of morels within two days of rain. But it takes them another 2-3 days to grow bigger into their final size. Some people say morels grow overnight.
People think this way because morels are tricky to spot. So when they do spot them, it feels like they weren’t here the day before.
05. Is It Better to Freeze or Dehydrate Morels?
We think freeze-drying is the best option for morels. If you freeze-dry your morel mushrooms, they will last up to 20 years without losing much flavor or nutrition. When you rehydrate freeze-dried morels. They taste indistinguishable from fresh ones.
06. Do You Soak Morels in Salt Water?
You should never soak morels in saltwater. This will totally ruin the taste and texture of morel mushrooms. So don’t take this type of old-age advice from people.
07. How Much Do Morel Mushrooms Cost?
Morel mushrooms have quite a reputation for being expensive. As they are seasonal mushrooms, when the season passes, the price increases exponentially.
Morels can cost at least $30 per pound due to their high demand and rarity. If you are shipping them from another state or country, they will cost much higher.
Morels are one of those rare mushrooms that can turn a mushroom hater into a fan. The texture and flavor are so unique that all you need is some salt and butter.
And there you have it. Preserving morel mushrooms is super easy to do. Freezing morel mushrooms is actually the easiest way to keep them fresh. Just make sure you don’t freeze them raw.
If you don’t want to go through all these hassles of freezing, drying, and storing, you can buy morel mushrooms online. We like the Vigorous Mountains Wild Dried Morel Mushrooms cause they come in pre-dried and sealed condition.