I sometimes wonder what would happen if morel mushrooms suddenly became a commercially-grown mushroom. Would you really need to learn how to dry morel mushrooms if they were as readily available as white buttons or portobellos?
It’s a constant internal argument I have with myself. The morel mushroom is one of the world’s most prized varieties. Many chefs crave its delicate flavors, who often pay huge sums of money to those fortunate enough to find them.
But while having more morel mushrooms available would certainly mean we all included them more into our diet, how much would the taste change through commercialization? And that’s where I struggle.
Morel mushrooms are one of the finest -tasting mushrooms, a distinct earthy flavor prized by so many. There’s something that commercially-grown produce seems to lose through the growing process, never fully replicating mother nature’s brilliance.
Why and How You Should Dry Morel Mushrooms
Because these wonderful varieties don’t grow commercially, they are only available during a few weeks known as morel mushroom season. In the United States, this season starts from early to mid-April until the later part of June, sometimes plus or minus a week or 2.
They aren’t available outside of this time period and stocks found and harvested, don’t have a very long shelf life. Morel mushrooms only last a few days in the fridge, especially if washed in water as soon as they are brought home.
There are also many wonderful recipes for dried morel mushrooms, like this one right here. Using the mushroom anyway you can, helps you understand how to best create amazing dishes that you and your family will come back to again and again.
Step #1: Clean Your Morels
Morel mushroom caps have dozens of deep grooves that hold dirt perfectly. This grit and sand will end up in your recipe unless you find a way to effectively remove it. But sand and grit aren’t the only thing you need to worry about.
Morel mushroom caps are hollow and, along with the many deep crevices, make for excellent homes for wayward insects needing a place to live. The last thing you want is a spider or beetle floating in your fanciful dish.
The issue with soaking morel mushrooms is that they are great sponges, absorbing the water which in turn reduces their flavors. Don’t overdo it. Soak them long enough to ensure you clean out all the grooves, ridges and inner cap. A soft-bristled toothbrush work well.
Use a couple of tablespoons of salt in around half a gallon of water and submerge the mushroom for no more than 20 minutes. I’ve heard people suggesting to soak them overnight and I cringe at the thought of it. The amount of flavor lost during this time leaves very little to enjoy.
Step #2: Size Them Accordingly
Morel mushrooms come in a variety of sizes and that poses a problem when you prepare to dry them in a food dehydrator. The issue is that if the mushrooms differ too much in size, they tend to dry at different speeds and that causes problems.
If you find that you have enough morel mushrooms for several batches, then sort them according to size. Similar lengths will often dry out at the same rate, so if you have enough for a full batch, then use them at once.
If, however, you find that the mushrooms vary anywhere from a couple of inches to those 10 to 12 inches in length, you’ll end up with a mix of dried and semi-dried morels. One way to overcome this issue is to slice your morels into pieces that closely match in size.
This will ensure all the pieces dehydrate at the same speed, resulting in a more uniform finish, perfect for storing away.
Step #3: Stack the Trays
Once you have sorted your morel mushrooms into similar sizes, arrange them on the trays. Don’t be afraid to spread them out more than needed. It is much better to allow better airflow between the morels. Greater airflow not only decreases drying time but also improves the end result.
If you find that you don’t have enough room on the trays, maybe a few pieces left over, split the entire lot into two. Dehydrating in 2 batches with sparse numbers is much better than squeezing them all into a single batch.
Step #4: Dehydrate the Morels
Drying the morel mushrooms is going to take a little bit of trial and error and the last thing you want is to ruin your first batch. Set your dehydrator to 125 degrees Fahrenheit or 52 degrees Celsius.
Depending on the size of your individual pieces, the time could take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours. Check on them from time to time, but don’t let too much heat escape.
You are looking for pieces to be crispy and dry. If you find that some of the pieces still feel a little squishy, continue the drying process. Leaving moisture in the mushrooms will allow bacteria to grow and if stored long enough, will essentially spoil your prize.
Step #5: The Storing Part
Once you are positive that the pieces or slices are sufficiently dry, it’s time to prepare them for storage. One crucial point at this stage is to give the mushrooms sufficient time to cool. If you transfer warm mushrooms into storage jars, moisture will develop in the jars from the trapped air.
Air carries water vapor, released when something colder or warmer is introduced. Just like a soda can from the fridge will develop water droplets, so will warm morels when trapped in jars.
Once your mushrooms have properly cooled, store them preferably in glass jars. Seal them with tightly fitting lids and safely hide them away from direct light and heat, such as the back of a pantry. Your morel mushrooms should last at least 6 months like this, perfect for use throughout the year.
Discover another article on drying morel mushrooms here: 3 Ways to Dry Morel Mushrooms