Morels are a delight to many people who love eating mushrooms. They have such a unique flavor that is hard to describe. Moreover, they are versatile as you can prepare or cook them in many ways. They also complement a wide range of dishes. If you want to gather during its hunting season, it would be best to learn how to freeze Morel mushrooms so you could extend their shelf life without affecting the flavor.
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What Is Morel Mushrooms?
If you have tried buying Morels in the supermarket, you would probably agree that they are expensive compared to many other types of mushrooms. In some cases, they cost many times more than other cultivated mushrooms.
Morels are expensive because they are well-liked and popular but they have a low supply. They have a meaty (yet tender) texture and deep (not strong and overpowering) nutty and earthly flavor. In general, the darker the color of the Morel, the deeper is its flavor. In fine-dining restaurants, they are normally prepared for fancy meals.
Morels differ in appearance, depending on their subspecies. Even the mycologists cannot agree as to how many subspecies Morels have. Their color can be blonde to gray and their shape ranges from oblong to bulbous. But Morels share one common feature. That is, they have a honeycomb-like exterior with a hollow and whitish interior.
Other distinguishing features of Morels include:
- A true Morel has a hollow and cone-shaped head that is connected at the base to a hollow neck. There should be no break from its head to the neck.
- Has a pitted surface on the head.
- It is between two and six inches in height.
- It grows from the soil to the leaf mat.
When To Hunt For Morels
Morels are hard to resist because of their good qualities. When the spring rain comes and the temperature is increasing and the trees start to leaf out, these are signs that the Morel hunting season is already starting. They are a tasty treat not just for humans but also for chipmunks, squirrels and other wildlife. If these mushrooms pop out and you are not there, you’d most probably be hunting for leftovers of these creatures.
If you don’t want to gamble on hunting and don’t want to spend more buying them, your other option is to grow Morels. Thankfully, Morels are easy to grow. You could follow our guide here to learn how. Wild Mores are normally abundant from April to June, while the cultivated ones are available all year-round.
If you have a bountiful harvest, whether by gathering in the wild or growing them, the next thing you should think of is how to store Morels. Proper storing is essential to preserve the taste and texture of these mushrooms.
There are several ways of storing Morels. One common practice is drying Morels. But apart from that, another effective way to preserve and store these mushrooms is by freezing. This process may be seemingly simple but it can be tricky.
How To Freeze Morels Mushrooms
Freezing Morels starts by choosing the right mushrooms. For freezing, choose small- to medium-sized Morels that do not have signs or rots and decay. You could then follow the following procedure:
Step 1. Clean the mushrooms properly. This article from the Spruce will show you the different steps in cleaning Morels. It is important to note that you should not clean these mushrooms unless you will use them. That is because they are susceptible to mold or rotting when you clean them with water and then stored at room temperature.
Step 2. Slice the mushrooms or leave them whole
Step 3. Prepare Morels by steaming, blanching or sautéing. These preparation methods are important before freezing to avoid texture and color deterioration during the freezing process. Fresh mushrooms which do not undergo any of these processes may develop a bitter taste when frozen.
Steamed Morels generally last longer than those prepared or heated in butter or oil. To steam, combine a teaspoon of lemon juice in one pint of water. Dip the mushrooms in this solution for 5 minutes then steam using your regular steamer. Slices should take 2 minutes and whole mushrooms 5 minutes to steam. Set aside the mushroom and let them cool.
In a boiling pan, combine one pint of water with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Bring it to a boil. Blanch the Morels, the same time required when steaming them. After blanching, drain the mushrooms and set aside to cool.
To sauté, you’ll need 2 tablespoons of butter for every pound of Morel. On a non-stick skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and stir them occasionally. Cook for 5 minutes. At this time, the mushrooms should already release their liquid. Drain them and set aside to cool.
Step 4. After the mushrooms have cooled, you can freeze them plain or breaded.
Freezing plain Morels – After cooling, pack the Morels on food-grade containers or freezer baggies; seal properly then freeze.
Freezing breaded Morels – Dip the Morels in egg wash and then roll them in your favorite breading such as flour or breadcrumbs. Put them in a cookie sheet then freeze for about 24 hours. You can then transfer the Morels to food grade containers or zip lock. Seal properly and freeze again.
Precooked plain Morels stay beautifully in the freezer for up to one year. However, the breaded ones have a shorter shelf life of one to two month. That is due to the use of egg in the breading process.
Basically, the freezing process of Morels can be divided into three stages. That is: cleaning, precooking and packing.
When you have frozen a good amount of Morels, you could then use them anytime you want. But defrosting is another process that you need to do properly. To defrost, get a container of Morel in the freezer and place it in the refrigerator. Do not defrost Morels using water as they will lose their taste. You should be able to use the Morels in about an hour or two. Even if they are still frosty, you can already add them to stews or soups.
Cooking Frozen Morels
I would like to share with you my basic recipe of cooking Morels.You will need: 2 tbsp. of butter, 2 cups frozen Morels, minced garlic, minced shallots, minced basil leaves, salt and pepper to taste.
- 1. Put your skillet over medium heat and put in the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and the mushrooms. Stir occasionally and cook until the mushrooms have absorbed all the liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- 2. Turn off the fire before the mushrooms darkened in color. Add the shallots.
- 3. Transfer the dish in a serving plate, and garnish with basil (alternatively you can use parsley, whichever you prefer).
If you have packages of Morels in your freezer, it means you can have a delicious treat anytime your craving strikes. Morels are very versatile when it comes to their culinary application. You can fry or sauté them as they are or add them to soups, stews, salads, burger toppings and more.
If you love mushrooms and regularly serve them in your table, knowing how to freeze Morel mushrooms allows you to get the best of these expensive mushrooms. The key to your success in freezing Morels is to make sure you precook them by steaming, blanching or sautéing before freezing.
How did you find this article? If you want to contribute some ideas we have not mentioned above, please feel free to share them in the comments. Also, don’t forget to share this article with your friends so they’ll also know how to freeze Morel mushrooms the right way.