When you first pick morels in the wild, you have to transport them safely followed by a cleaning. You want to rid the mushrooms of dirt and debris as well as remove white worms lurking around. Then, you want to decide if you’re going to eat them within the next four days or if you want to try and preserve them.
How Do You Transport Morels Once You Pick Them?
Once you pick the mushrooms, you have to transport them safely. You don’t want them to incur any damage so you can take them home and enjoy their marvelous flavor. They must have plenty of air and stay in a cool, dry place.
So, there are some things you definitely should not do. This means not putting them in your backpack, purse, a sealable sandwich bag or leaving them in a hot car for several hours. You want to treat these as delicate as you possibly can.
Using a mesh bag to transport your morels comes highly recommended by many mycological enthusiasts. Plus, it theoretically allows the spores to scatter all over the forest floor as you walk from the woods.
However, you could also use a paper bag, cardboard box or a breathable shopping bag. Some convert things like egg cartons into morel mushroom holders. Before they go foraging, they’ll poke holes throughout the container.
Then, upon finding the morels, they put one or two mushrooms in each compartment. The closure helps keep the mushrooms safe while the holes provide sufficient airflow. Plus, it gives a little shade and heat protection.
Keeping the Mushrooms Cool & Dry
When putting them in your car, ensure they won’t roll around or get crushed. If it’s hot outside or your car has been in the sun all day, turn the A/C on and allow the car to cool down considerably before you bring them inside.
Also, pay attention to where the sun will hit your car on the way back home. You want to avoid putting the mushrooms in direct heat and sunlight. This will destroy them.
How Do You Clean Morels?
There are three main ways to clean morels: rinse, rinse with a short soak or rinse followed by a long soak. The one that’s best will depend on how dirty the mushrooms are and the level of insect infestation that’s present. It’s advisable that you cut the morels in half lengthwise. You can opt to cut them before storing.
Turn on the faucet and run cool water. Rub the surface of the morels to remove dirt, debris and white worms. Inspect each piece closely to ensure you remove everything well. But this method won’t be enough if you retrieved the morels from sandy soil, just after a rain or if it’s riddled with bugs.
Rinse with a Short Soak
A popular option is rinsing the mushrooms followed by a short soak that can last anywhere from five minutes to 30 minutes. The length of time will be contingent on how dirty and infested they are. Ensure you dry the mushrooms before you store them.
Rinse with a Long Soak
Some people will clean their mushrooms with a rinse and subsequent longer soak. This is good for heavily infested mushrooms, especially if you add some salt. But this method will dull the flavor, change the texture and you will have to sufficiently dry the morels before you eat them.
How Do You Store Cleaned Morels?
The most important thing for you to remember when it comes to storing your new-found mushrooms is air. Morels must have adequate airflow while they sit before you eat them. This means you shouldn’t put them in a sealable sandwich bag in your fridge. They should stay cool and dry with plenty of breathing room.
Cut the morels in half now if you didn’t do it during the cleaning process. Inspect them for residual dirt and bugs. Then, put them in a paper bag or on a drying sheet. Allow these to sit in the fridge. Avoid storing in an airtight container because it will destroy your mushrooms. They’ll be gooey and sad looking.
How Do You Preserve Cleaned Morels?
If you want to keep your morels for a little longer than four days, you can freeze them. They should be good to keep this way for up to a month. Once you’ve cleaned and dried the morel mushrooms, there are three tried and true approaches you can use to keep them in the freezer:
- Dust the mushrooms with a light coating of flour, put them on a cookie sheet and stick them in the freezer until frozen. Remove them from the freezer, place into a freezer bag and return to the freezer. The flour prevents the morels from sticking together.
- You can vacuum pack them as well. After cleaning, put them on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer until solid. This will make them hard enough to handle the sealing mechanism of the machine. Vacuum packed morels will keep over the course of an entire winter.
- You can also freeze the morels by putting them into a milk carton. After cleaning the mushrooms, put them into a wide-mouthed paper milk carton (not a gallon or plastic). Cover them with water while allowing some head room for expansion and put them in the freezer. Keep them frozen solid until you’re ready to cook.
Is Using a Freeze Dryer Good for Preserving Morel Mushrooms?
However, if you want to go for long-term storage, freeze drying is the way to do it. When done right, they have a shelf life for more than 25 years and retain 95% of their nutritional value. When rehydrated, they are identical to their fresher counterparts.
To do this, you’ll have to purchase a freeze dryer or borrow one from someone you know. But if you’re a frequent forager, this may be a great investment.