Why is it so important to dry morel mushrooms? There’s no denying that morel mushrooms are one of the most desired and sought-after mushroom varieties on the planet. Given this popularity, chefs prize them, often purchasing them from keen mushroom hunters that forage specifically for them. That’s probably why so many people actively hunt for them.
Although morel mushrooms are so extremely popular, there is one issue that people can not seem to deal with. Morels only grow during a particular season and that makes them very limited.
Food connoisseurs, chefs and morel fans can’t always hunt for morels for the majority of the year because of Mother Nature’s agenda. What’s worse is that morels don’t last an awfully long time once picked.
People have striven for years to find an easy method for making morel mushrooms available all year round. Their delightful nutty and earthy flavor is so sought after, that many would try anything to enjoy the mushroom year-round. Thankfully, this article will show you 3 unique ways to enjoy morels any time you choose.
Why Drying Morel Mushrooms is so Popular
Drying foods isn’t new. It’s not even recently new. Humans have been drying food since they began walking upright on 2 legs, although I don’t have definitive proof that they dried their food back then. There’s a very good reason we know food drying has been around for so long.
Back before supermarkets were springing up on every corner, food was a little harder to come by. Hunters would head out each day and try and bring home enough food to feed the family or tribe. But if hunting became scarce, they couldn’t keep the food for very long. Often, the meat would spoil, or the tribe needed to eat it almost as fast as they caught it.
Humans used the wind and the sun to dry the food out, removing the moisture and leaving the good bits behind. Humans also discovered that the nutritional value of the foods remained, an important advantage.
By drying the food, people discovered a whole new way of storing food for periods of famine or just seasonal shortage. Foods were available anytime, regardless of their season.
How to Prepare Morels for Drying
Unfortunately, there is a certain method to dry morel mushrooms properly. It’s not as easy as simply dropping the mushroom into your drier and hitting the start button. Take care and consideration to ensure the end product is as high as possible in quality.
Cleaning your morels should be your first priority. The cap of the mushroom resembles honeycomb, with ridges and valleys encompassing it entirely.
If you find that your morel resembles more of a brain than honeycomb, with wavy ridges instead of the distinctive honeycomb, there’s a very good chance you have yourself a false more. Check out this article on how to properly identify a false morel from a true morel.
Once you are sure you have a true morel, give the mushroom a thorough inspection. Unlike a false morel that has a solid cap, a true morel’s cap is hollow, providing the perfect home for any wayward insects or critters looking for shelter.
Give the mushroom a thorough clean by soaking it in a bowl of water. Because of the cap’s dimply surface, simply wiping the morel isn’t enough to clean the dirt and grit, hence why soaking is more thorough.
Don’t leave the mushroom submerged for too long though. They absorb water quite quickly and any extra water will only extend their drying time. Pat them dry with paper towel and get ready to dry your prize.
Ways to Dry Morel Mushrooms
Method #1: Air Drying
This method is best described as one used by cavemen back before the invention of any kind of kitchen aid. Air drying has been around for tens of thousands of years and is one of the true original food preparation techniques.
Air drying is quite simple to do. Start by threading a string, preferably thread, but if you’re pressed, you can use wax-free and definitely unflavored dental floss. Thread your string through the mushroom length ways and hang them up in a cool and dry location.
The process may take anywhere from 2 to 7 days. This will depend on the moisture content in the air where you hang your mushrooms, as well as the temperature of the space. These can both impact the drying process, possibly extending it by a few days. They will be ready for storing once the morel’s feel brittle.
Method #2: Oven Drying
Why not use an appliance you already have in your kitchen? It’s one that you have probably been using every single day since you’ve been in your home. It’s your oven. There are a couple of things to remember when using your oven for such a delicate operation.
It is after all designed to deliver high heat in an enclosed space. We don’t want to cook our morels so we need to approach this method with a little care.
You can either sit the morels on some baking paper and rest them on racks, or thread them with string and suspend the mushrooms from the racks themselves. Either way works well. Next, turn your oven to its lowest possible setting, preferably no more than 130 F.
If needed, open the oven door a little and keep it ajar. The process takes around 8 hours, but depends on the size of the mushroom. Once they feel brittle and dry, they are ready.
Method #3: Food Dehydrator
This method to dry morel mushrooms uses an appliance specifically designed to dry food out. A food dehydrator is a wonderful gadget because it’s a set-and-forget tool, perfect for our intended job. Food dehydrators have a great reputation for achieving near-perfect results and all it takes is a little patience.
The dehydrator may take a little longer than an oven, but again, this is dependent on the size of your morels. Smaller ones may take significantly less time so be prepared to check them occasionally. Try and dehydrate them on a single rack to reduce time as well. If you are dehydrating more than one, make sure you leave enough space between them to promote sufficient air flow.
Re-hydrate the Morels
Once you’re ready to re-hydrate the mushrooms, simply drop them into a bowl of water and wait 20 minutes. Cold water is preferred and you can even use the water in a broth, the earthy flavor of the morel now infused in it.
You might also choose to re-hydrate your morels by boiling them, especially if you’re using them in a risotto. The great thing with boiling them is that the water will be significantly infused with the morels and is perfect to use in the risotto preparation.
Whatever you decide to use your morel mushrooms for, you can now rest assured that they are usable for up to six months after picking them. This greatly increases their shelf life and means you can have delicious morels all year long. If you fancy keeping them longer than six months, consider freezing morels.