So you’re a true morel hunter now. Your basket is full and you’ve got way more than you want to eat. It’s time to preserve the leftovers. So what do you do? Is it better to freeze or dehydrate morels?
The best way to preserve morels is to use a professional freeze dryer. Freeze-dried morels can be vacuumed stored with a silica pouch for up to 20 years. The freeze-drying process uses a vacuum to remove moisture, not heat like a typical food dehydrator. This preserves both the taste and the texture of your morels. Sadly, freeze dryers are expensive and range from a low of $2,000 up to $3,500 for a larger unit.
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Is There A Difference Between Dehydrating And Freeze Drying?
Why do freeze-dried morels last longer? They have less water. Drying removes about 95% of the water whereas freeze-drying removes up to 99%.
True freeze-drying is difficult to do. You need a specialized machine that does the following:
- Mushrooms are cleaned, patted dry, sliced lengthwise, then placed in trays
- Trays are added to the true freeze dryer
- Freeze dryer creates a vacuum and lowers the temperature below freezing
- The vacuum causes the water in the mushrooms to move out without freezing first. The water in the mushroom evaporates out. This preserves the texture of the mushroom.
True freeze-drying in addition to preserving the texture also makes a lighter end product (less water) and it’s easier to re-hydrate. Dehydrated banana chips required boiling or sitting in water for a long time to re-hydrate. You can re-hydrate freeze-dried banana chips right in your mouth.
Heat and water are the two things you need for food to spoil. The lower the heat (e.g. a freezer) and the less water (e.g. freeze-drying) the longer it can last.
The silica pouch also helps keep it dry. All the long-term storage food I’ve used has always had a silica pouch in each package.
Can You Freeze Morel Mushrooms?
Yes, you can freeze them in your freezer just like regular food. You can also use a professional freeze dryer to remove 75% of the water from any vegetables or fruits before freezing them. The result is food that’s less wilted, more palatable than the original product, and has a longer shelf-life when frozen.
What’s The Taste And Texture Of Frozen Morels?
The process of normal freezing will change the texture of your morels. Frozen water expands inside the cell walls causing them to burst. This makes for a soggier end product when you reheat them later.
If you properly froze them you can still preserve the taste for up to 12 months though. It’s mainly the texture that is affected by the freeze.
Note that with freeze-drying in a vacuum, the water is pulled out of the mushroom before freezing. This helps maintain the original texture slightly better than normal freezing.
What’s The Taste And Texture Of Dehydrated Morels?
Dehydration comes in two forms – normal dehydration and freeze-drying.
You can dehydrate morels by drying them in the sun or using a food dehydrator. About 70-95% of the water will be removed. Expect morels dehydrated in this fashion to be chewy, hard, and somewhat tasteless.
The main point – you’ll lose even more flavor when drying than you would from normal freezing.
Freeze-dried morels are a different story. They maintain both their structure and their taste. No heat was used to dry them. Instead, a vacuum pulled the water out then they were immediately frozen.
Want to get a feel for what we’re talking about? Let’s talk about freeze-dried ice cream. Space ice cream! Remember that. Light, crispy, and delicious.
Sadly, it was always Neopolitan. Guess astronauts never liked chocolate chip cookie dough!
Check out the freeze-dried ice cream below. It would be impossible to dehydrate ice cream like this. You’d just melt it into a liquid mess that would then harden like a fruit rollup on the bottom of your dehydrator.
Not so with freeze-drying. The vacuum pulls out all the moisture while retaining the fluff of the ice cream and that lovely delicious taste. In many ways, the taste for me at least improved into something even more marvelous.
This is what you get when you freeze-dry morels. The only problem. The machinery is crazy-expensive. Freeze dryers start at $2,200 and go up to $3,500 and beyond as they get larger. And no, you won’t find a cheaper freeze dryer on Amazon!
How Long Do Frozen Morels Last?
Frozen morels can be stored in the freezer for 6-12 months. The basic freezing process involves cleaning the morels, using salt water to get rid of any creepy crawlies or tiny bugs, freezing them open on a cookie tray, then bagging them up in a Ziploc for long-term storage.
How Long Do Dehydrated Morels Last?
Dried mushrooms can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature (or preferably in a cool place) for 6-12 months. Storing them in a freezer will help them last even longer. If you include a silica pouch and vacuum seal them they can last 20 years. I have some dehydrated banana slices that are stored that way and rated to last for 20 years.
Freeze-dried morels stored in a vacuumed freezer bag with a silica desiccant pouch can last in the freezer for up to 20 years as well.