Morel mushrooms are one of the most highly regarded mushrooms in the world, but a lot of people might not know that Morel mushrooms aren’t actually farmed, they are only picked in the wild.
Because of this, you can only get fresh Morel mushrooms in spring. Throughout the year, if you’re buying Morels, they’re going to be dried.
However, one of the best things you can do is buy Morel mushrooms early in spring, and find a way to prepare them for storage yourself.
So you may be asking yourself, ‘can you freeze morel mushrooms?’ The answer is yes, you can freeze Morel mushrooms. It’s important to not freeze raw Morel mushrooms because they won’t maintain their flavor or texture when you reheat them. Boiling or sauteing the mushroom before freezing is the best way to prepare them.
Keep reading to find out the step by step methods to preparing morels for freezing.
What is a Morel mushroom?
A Morel is a mushroom, part of the genus Morchella. No one actually knows how many varieties of Morel mushrooms there are, because every year sees new discoveries and different varieties crop up.
Because there are such a wide amount of Morel mushroom variants, Morels can actually differ a huge amount in appearance, so don’t be perturbed if the Morels you buy from one place differ from the Morels you buy in another.
The only things that Morels do share are the rough honeycomb shape of the outside and the cap that runs directly into the stem.
Apart from that, however, there’s a massive difference in how Morel mushrooms look. From brown to grey, smaller than your fingertip to bigger than your fist, squarish to oval, they run the gamut.
How to freeze Morel mushrooms
The first thing to know when freezing your Morels is that you cannot freeze raw Morel mushrooms.
Freezing your mushrooms raw is likely to ruin the flavor, but this won’t be detectable until they’re cooked and served, ruining the whole dish.
There are two ways to prepare your Morels for freezing.
- The boiling method, and
- The sauté method
Boiling your mushrooms for freezing
The boiling method for preserving Morels is simple.
Place the whole mushrooms into a pot of boiling water and bring to a boil for around 5 minutes.
Once boiled, pour the mushrooms into freezer bags, remove the air, seal, and freeze.
Sautéing your mushrooms for freezing
It’s best to prepare and freeze your Morels in 1-pound batches. This recipe assumes you’re working with about a pound of Morels.
Leave the mushrooms in slightly salted water for 1-2 minutes, stirring or shaking occasionally.
While you’re doing this, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan that is set to medium heat.
Add the mushrooms to the pan, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook for 5 minutes. The mushrooms should have released their liquid by the time they’re done.
Scoop up the mushrooms and their liquid, and add them to freezer bags. Two freezer bags will hold one pound of mushrooms. Add the liquid to the bags because it helps protect the mushrooms and retains the flavor.
Freeze immediately, and they will hold for about 1 year.
Why do people love Morel mushrooms?
The most obvious reason is their flavor. Morels are delicious and taste different than other mushrooms.
People who dislike mushrooms generally mention the texture as being slimy or viscous. Morels instead are meaty, with a thicker consistency and a deep, nutty flavor.
The second reason is demand. Because people love Morels, they’ve developed a reputation as the mushroom for connoisseurs.
People want to get ahold of them more and more because of the prestige attached to the name, or just to see if the reality meets up with the hype.
Pair that with the low availability (relative to other mushrooms) of Morels, and you’ve got a recipe for desire.
How to buy Morel mushrooms
When you’re buying Morel mushrooms, you should be looking for a mushroom that is soft when you touch it, slightly moist and spongy. They shouldn’t noticeably deform, nor should they compress too much.
Fresh Morels also have a distinct smell that is very natural and reminiscent of the woods.
Other ways to store Morels
You don’t just have to freeze your Morels as we described earlier. There are multiple options available to you, and they’ve all got their pluses and minuses.
Storing Morel mushrooms fresh
Storing Morels in your fridge is the simplest method but the least efficient.
If placed in a fridge and cared for properly, Morels have a shelf life of 5 to 7 days at best.
If you know you’re going to be using them soon, then store them in a paper bag (not plastic because of condensation) or in a bowl with a damp paper towel over the top of it.
This will keep them at their best for as long as possible.
Freeze drying Morel mushrooms
If you’re lucky enough to have a freeze dryer, then freeze-drying your Morels is a fantastic option.
A freeze-dried Morel will last at least 20 years and retain over 95% of its nutritional value. Even better, when they’re rehydrated, a freeze-dried Morel will be basically indistinguishable from a freshly picked one.
A freeze-drying machine isn’t a small investment, but there’s no better way to preserve mushrooms.
How to defrost Morel mushrooms
When it comes time to defrost your Morel mushrooms, do not leave them on the countertop, and definitely don’t put them in the oven or microwave.
Instead, you should leave them in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the mushrooms to defrost slowly.
Don’t worry if, after that hour, the mushrooms still seem frozen. As long as they’ve been given at least an hour to defrost, it’s safe to put them directly into your dish.
Are there other ways to preserve Morel mushrooms?
Yes. If you don’t have space in your freezer, or simply don’t want to freeze them, you can easily dry Morel mushrooms in your own home.
There are three methods you can use to dry your Morels. Air drying, oven drying, or using a food dryer.
Firstly, soak the mushrooms in salted water, occasionally stirring them. Do this for 1-2 minutes to allow any dirt or grit caught in the mushroom to come free.
Do not leave them for longer than a few minutes, as they will drink in the water and become much more difficult to dry.
Any mushroom over the height of your thumb (around 2 inches, 5cm) should be split in half, top to bottom.
Using a food dryer, set it to 110 degrees and leave for around 10 hours.
To air dry, thread each mushroom onto a strong cord (dental floss is ideal) and leave in a dry, dark place for 24 to 48 hours.
To oven-dry, thread the mushrooms as mentioned before, then tie them to a rack in the oven so they hang and have ample space between them.
Set the oven to the lowest heat, leave the door open a small amount to allow air to circulate, and leave for 8 to 10 hours.
How do I store dried Morel mushrooms?
The first thing to know is that dried Morel mushrooms are much easier to store.
You can store dried Morel mushrooms in airtight containers at room temperature.
Alternatively, you can store freeze-dried Morel mushrooms for up to a year.
How do I rehydrate my Morel mushrooms?
To rehydrate your Morels, simply put them in a bowl of cool water. After 15 to 20 minutes, they will go back to normal, retaining their fresh shape and texture.
This method works better if you can keep the mushrooms underwater.
Once done, the water will retain a good amount of flavor, and we recommend using it in your cooking.
Can I pick my own Morels?
Considering that all Morels are picked wild rather than farmed, you can pick your own, but if you do not know what you’re doing, this is a risky activity.
We’re going to repeat that. Unless you’re 100% sure what you’re picking, do not eat anything that you’ve picked yourself.
There are many varieties of false Morel that appear very similar to real Morels, but they’re deadly poisonous.
With that said, Morels, like all mushrooms, like damp areas with a lot of shade. Expect to find them close to trees, specifically aspen, ash, elm, and oak. (4)
When harvesting Morels, be sure to take a knife. Cut as close to the ground as possible, without getting the mushroom dirty.
Don’t pluck them, otherwise, you’ll end up with broken stems.
When you’re storing them, traditional methods are best. An open weave basket with a cloth over the top lets them breathe and stops them from sweating until you get them home.
Don’t pile them too high because the ones on the bottom will bruise.
However you end up getting them, now you know everything you need to know to freeze and store your Morels, so you can enjoy that delicate flavor all year round!