Jul 6, 2023
Morel mushrooms are delicate fungi that only grow in the wild, making them a hot commodity among chefs. Unfortunately, they only show up during the spring, making these delicious mushrooms rare.
If you don’t like the slimy texture of other mushrooms, this is the mushroom for you. They have this meaty, earthy, nutty flavor that makes sautéed vegetables and sauces pop with flavor. And unlike other mushrooms, they are so light that you can get enough mushrooms to feed 2 people for $5.
The best way to save morel mushrooms is to cook them as fast as you can pick them. They don’t store well because they’re hollow. You can only keep them in the fridge for two days, which means you can only harvest or buy what you need for a day.
But did you know that freeze drying can help you preserve morel mushrooms for years? Here’s how to freeze dry morel mushrooms so you don’t have to wait for the growing season.
There are two types of morel mushrooms you’ll see in the wild or sold in markets. One is the morel mushroom, and the other is the false morel.
Morel mushrooms look like sea corals that sprout on forest or wilderness floors. They can be black or white in color and hollow at the center. The caps are also like skirts that attach to the top of the mushroom, then free hangs starting almost from the middle. They look like long elongated bells
False morels, on the other hand, have a red cap that’s rounder and thicker. To an untrained eye, they don’t look like true morel mushrooms. But if you’re foraging for the first time and since they also grow where morels grow, you’ll think they’re the same.
False morels have thicker, brain-like folds. One even said they looked like innards that sprouted on the ground. These are mushrooms you should take lightly because they’re poisonous. But some eat them with no ill effects, which is why they’re sold in some food markets in Europe.
Usually, you can only store morel mushrooms by cooking them and then vacuum packaging them.
With freeze drying, you can either blanch, sauté, or par-boil. You can also freeze-dry them as-is to give you more freedom to cook when you need them.
But before you do anything, you should clean the mushrooms. Rinse the dirt off the stems of the mushrooms under clean running water as fast as you can. Remember that they’re highly porous and can quickly get waterlogged. Then shake out any bugs that might have hidden inside the folds. Once satisfied, pat them dry to get as much moisture as possible.
You can freeze-dry the mushrooms whole if you want, or you can cut them in half.
Pre-freezing is optional for morels because they’re hollow and porous. But if you’ve got something going on in your freeze dryer, pre-freeze your morels. Use the freeze dryer trays if you have extra when freezing. This way, you don’t have to worry about thawing and drops in temp.
What’s good about freeze-drying Morel Mushrooms with a Harvest Right freeze-dryer? You don’t have to do a lot of customization. The unit comes with a pre-set function for vegetables for efficient freeze-drying. Just choose that option if you’re uncertain about how long you need to freeze dry.
You might be looking at a 16-36-hour freeze-drying cycle. This can depend if you have other foods freeze-drying or the room temp where the freeze dryer’s located.
Freeze-dried morels should be crunchy, dry, and airy. They’ll be so light, they’re almost non-substantial. If some mushrooms still feel soft and cool to the touch, put the trays back for extra drying for 1-3 hours.
If you want to keep them for long-term storage, as in you’re not going to use them for months or years? It’s better to choose Mylar bags for storage. You can put them away, and they won’t take up much room.
If you’re going to use them often, then mason jars are better. They even look so impressive that you’ll be tempted to cook them all.
Whatever storage solution you choose, remember to vacuum seal them with oxygen absorbers. In every gallon of container size (not food weight), use 1-2 of 300cc oxygen absorbers.
Rehydrating doesn’t take much time, thanks to the porous quality of the mushrooms. Depending on the size, reconstituting would take 1-5 minutes. Or you can cook them in their freeze dried state, then add water as necessary to rehydrate them.
You’ll be surprised at how freeze-dried morel mushrooms taste. Some mushrooms, when you dry them, get really tough. Dried morels are a bit chewy and not that tough. But for freeze-dried Morels, the texture is very close to fresh ones.
When you store them in ideal conditions, your freeze-dried morel mushrooms can last for 25 years or more. That’s a huge leap from just 2 days in the fridge.
Where do you get your morel mushrooms, and how do you plan to use them freeze-dried? Let us know in the comment section.
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