Morel mushrooms aren’t only one of the oddest looking mushrooms (or even of the oddest looking foods for that matter) they are also perhaps one of the most delicious.
As you probably know, they are so highly regarding for the deep, nutty flavor and thicker, meaty consistency compared to other mushrooms. Additionally, since they’re only grown in the wild and are only ripe to pick in the Spring, they are a seasonal favorite that you can only enjoy fresh during part of the year.
However, whilst the dry variety can help to get you through the year if you have a craving before Spring, true morel mushroom fans can do one better by freezing fresh morel mushrooms.
So, if you’re a fan of this type of mushroom, which is one of the tastiest varieties, then you’re probably interested in learning about how you can enjoy them year round. Let’s get into how you can store morel mushrooms from freezing them to drying them, shall we?
Can You Freeze Morel Mushrooms?
Yes! You can certainly freeze morel mushrooms. But it’s important that they are frozen in the correct manner. You shouldn’t just chuck your morels (or any other kind of mushroom for that matter) into the freezer. While they technically would still be edible, they’ll be much less enjoyable to eat if you do so.
The reason they’ll be worse after they’ve been frozen is because of the high water content in mushrooms in general. When frozen and thawed, the ice crystals that form in the mushrooms will leave them soft and mushy. This is why you shouldn’t freeze uncooked mushrooms. However, if you do freeze uncooked mushrooms, you can still use them in other ways like soups, stews, or casseroles as the texture will be hidden when they are incorporated into a dish like that.
But if you want the option to use them in more varied ways, then it’s best that you properly prepare them beforehand.
How Long Do Frozen Morel Mushrooms Last?
How long a frozen morel mushroom lasts depends on the method that one uses to freeze them. Generally, they’ll last in the freezer for 9-12 months. However, if they’re freeze-dried they can stay good for up to 20 years. Yes, 20 years! They’ll also retain a lot of their moisture content as well. But more on that later, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s first get into the different methods of freezing morel mushroom.
How to Freeze Morel Mushrooms
I have already mentioned it, but it’s worth saying again. I recommend freezing cooked morel mushrooms and not raw morel mushrooms. They will be fine to eat but the taste and texture will be not nearly as good as if you follow one of the two following methods: boiling and sauté.
Both methods are pretty straightforward but the boiling method is definitely the simplest. All you need to do is boil a pot of water. Once the water is boiling, put the desired amount of mushrooms into the water and boil for five minutes.
After they’ve boiled for five minutes, drain the excess water and then allow them to cool down to room temperature. You can hasten the cooling process by putting them in the fridge once they aren’t steaming anymore.
After they’ve cooled down, put the mushrooms into a freezer bag, label, and put the bag in the freezer. Don’t forget to squeeze as much air out as possible before sealing the bag.
Similar to boiling, you can also steam them. It’s pretty much the same process but rather than putting them in the water – more similar to blanching – you put them in a steamer above the water. This can make it easier to store them as you don’t have to worry about the water hiding out in the crevices of the mushrooms.
Boiled (or steamed) morel mushrooms can be stored in the freezer for up to one year.
Personally, I prefer the sauté method. While it may not be the healthiest of the two, it adds a bit more flavor than the boiling method and it also keeps the mushrooms a bit firmer.
All you’ll need is the mushrooms, a bit of butter or oil, and if you’d like, you can also add salt, pepper, or even onion and/or garlic to really up the flavor.
You don’t need to worry too much about how oil or butter to use. You can use more or less depending on your preference. A good place to start is 2 tablespoons per pound and then adjust it accordingly depending on how many mushrooms you are preparing as well as your fondness of butter or oil.
To do it you simply need to warm a pan or skillet on medium-high heat. Add oil or butter and then sauté the mushrooms for no more than 5 minutes. You should cook them quickly, and fully.
To store them, again let them cool like with the boiling method and then put them in a labeled bag and squeeze all the air out before placing it in the freezer. You should leave a little bit of space in the freezer bag or container to allow for slight expansion.
While sautéd morel mushrooms have more flavor than their boiled counterparts, they can’t be stored in the freezer for quite as long. They should be used within 9 months of freezing.
How to Defrost Morel Mushrooms
Morel mushrooms may be one of the easiest things to defrost. But you should keep a couple of things in mind.
You shouldn’t leave them on the countertop to defrost. Nor should you put them in the microwave to defrost.
Instead, you should put them in the fridge to defrost. However, unlike other foods that require a lot of time in the fridge to defrost (anywhere between 1 night to 1 day) morel mushrooms only need a couple of hours in the fridge to thaw.
If after the hours have passed and they still seem a bit frozen, don’t worry. You can still add them to the dish you’re cooking. However, you should treat them with care when you prepare them. If they are still too frozen they run the risk of breaking. If you’re in doubt you can always leave them in the fridge to defrost a little longer.
Other Ways to Store Morel Mushrooms
While freezing morel mushrooms is perhaps the most common method of long-term storage, you’re not limited to the various freezing methods I’ve talked about. There are actually a few other ways that you can store more mushrooms. Some of which allow for some seriously long-term storage as well! However, these methods may require some extra tools and time.
I have briefly mentioned this method, which allows one to store morels for up to 20 years! However, a proper freeze-drying machine is very expensive – like over $2,000 expensive. So if you happen to have an extra few grand you’d like to spend on a machine to preserve morel mushrooms, I’d say go for it! However, a machine like that is probably not a priority for most. But, fear not, there is a freeze-drying technique that only requires a freezer, cookie sheet, foil, wax paper, beaten egg, and flour.
To do this, first, you cut the mushrooms into halves or quarters and then rinse and pat them dry. Then, prepare a cookie sheet by covering it with wax paper.
After that, dip each morel into the egg and then into the flour. Lightly shake off any extra batter and then place each one on the cookie sheet, making sure none of them are touching each other.
Then, place the cookie sheet in the freezer and allow them to fully freeze. After they are frozen, place them into a labeled freezer-safe bag for long-term storage after you have squeezed out all of the extra air.
You can also use a vacuum sealer for the best results to reduce the likelihood of freezer burn. If you’re freeze-drying them this way, they don’t have a 20-year shelf-life, unfortunately, and you should aim to use them within a year.
This is perhaps the most common and easiest drying technique there is. It’s very similar to stringing popcorn for a Christmas tree decoration. First, clean the stems and the crevices of dirt and any bugs that are hiding. You can either brush them off, shake them out, or rinse. But don’t soak them! If you rinse them, make sure to pat them dry afterward.
After they are clean, they are ready to dry. To do this you simply use a thin string or fabric. This can be twine, string, dental floss, or something similar.
You feed the chosen material through the stems of the mushrooms. Try to make them as evenly spaced apart as possible so they aren’t touching.
Hang them to dry in a dry, well-ventilated place. The most important aspect of this technique is the humidity level. It can take upwards of 2 or 3 days but the more humid it is, the longer it will take. If it’s more humid it can even take longer than 3 days.
To dry morel mushrooms in the oven you prepare the morel mushrooms like you would hang dry them. That is, you clean them and then thread a material like unwaxed dental floss or twine through the stems. Then you attach the string to a rack in your oven so that the caps of the mushrooms hand down. You can hang multiple rows of mushrooms in the oven but make sure that there are at least 2-inches of space between each mushroom. Leave any unused racks outside of the oven.
Then, turn the oven on to the lowest possible setting. If there is a convection feature, use it. The air circulation can help the drying process. Lastly, make sure to leave the oven door partially open, if possible.
Try to set the temperature below 140 degrees Fahrenheit so you don’t inadvertently cook the mushrooms instead of drying them. Dry them until they’re easily broken, which should be about 8-10 hours depending on how big the mushrooms are. A good rule of thumb – literally – is that if they are bigger than your thumb you should cut them in half lengthwise.
This is another method that requires a machine, but they’re much cheaper than freeze-drying machines and can be bought in the $100-$200 dollar range and can be quite useful for dehydrating mushrooms, amongst other things. However, if they are too cheap they actually can produce a humid environment and ruin the morels, so shop with care.
But to actually dehydrate them using this method is quite easy. You prepare and clean them as you do with the other methods and then simply place them in the dehydrator as per the machine’s instructions. Leave them in there for about 5-8 hours and rotate the trays every couple of hours. A temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit is the suggested temperature you should use if possible.