Morels, like all fungi and mushrooms, have an extremely short shelf life once picked. However, there are a variety of ways to store morels for future use.
Once picked, morels should be washed, cleaned and refrigerated quickly if they are to be eaten or frozen for storage. Morels (particularly those later in the picking season) are attractive to ants and other insects, both for the interior spores, and for the rough shelter they offer.
Morels, like many wild fungi and mushrooms, go soggy very quickly if not properly handled or stored, due to the spore content within them. Morels are largely water, anyway, so they do not hold up well, particularly in heat. Do not pack them too tightly when picking or storing, as morels compact easily.
Since salt bothers (and even kills) many insects, one of the easiest ways to clean morels is to dissolve 2 tbsp of salt into each quart of warm water used, and immerse the morels in the solution, washing them for several minutes, letting them stand for one-half hour, then draining. If you prefer a more thorough wash, either slit the morels in half lengthways before immersing, or puncture the narrow end to allow easier drainage after washing in the salty solution. Be sure to cut off the fibrous root-like tendrils, before washing, that are likely to be attached to the base of the morel when picking. This root-like mass, and the valleys of the morel honeycomb, tend to pick up small particles of dirt, sand and humus, contributing to a gritty, unpleasant texture with poorly cleaned morels.
Morels can be dehydrated, using a standard fruit dehydrator (available at Wal-Mart). Be sure that the morels are completely dehydrated, then store in a paper bag in a dry, dark pantry. To rehydrate morels, simply soak them for 1-2 hours in warm water or thin sauce.
Dried morels are great for taking on a backpacking or camping trip, because of their light weight, durability and ease of rehydrating. They are perfect complements to almost any meat or eggs, and work well with true wildcraft harvests of boiled cattail root or fried dandelion greens! Many campers use dried morels like chewing tobacco, letting the morels rehydrate between gums and cheek for a real time-delayed taste explosion.
To freeze morels, wash & drain them, then in a deep fry pan, melt butter, add pepper (or garlic, if desired) and the morels, and cook over medium low heat for up to 5-8 minutes. With the liquid, store the mushrooms in an airtight container or freezer bag in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
If using morels within 2-3 days of picking, wash thoroughly and drain until dry. Place loosely in a paper bag and store in the refrigerator, as you would with white button mushrooms.
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