Saturday, May 16, 2009

May Michigan Morels--Keeping 'em for Winter

It’s morel season here in Northern Michigan. I’ll be picking for another week. Then I’m headed north to one of my favorite fishing spots, where if I’m lucky, the morels will just be emerging.

As I prepare another batch of morels today, I thought I might share my method for eating morels in the middle of the winter. I used to dry them. Then, on a cold winter day, I would re-hydrate my morels enough for scrambled eggs or throw them dried, right into a soup or a sauce for pasta. A pesto sauce with morels is heaven! But always, in the middle of winter, I missed the delight of eating fresh morels.

Here’s what I do now to get as close as I can to eating fresh morels all year. After I’ve picked a fresh batch in May, I always, rinse the morels in cold water and cut them in half lengthwise, in order to rinse out any dirt or bugs inside the morel. Next I lay them on a paper towel to let all the excess water drain. As the drying continues, I change the paper towel often. I continue this process until the morels are still fresh, but beginning to lose their moisture.

Of course, I keep a few for my next meal. As far as I’m concerned, one should be eating morels every day during the season. But a few I want to preserve for the long winter months. These, I dump in a paper bag with white flour and just a little salt. I shake the bag lightly to cover the morels and then I remove them and shake any loose flour from each morel. You want the morel totally covered with flour, lightly, but not caked. If your morels are heavily caked with flour, you didn’t remove enough moisture first.

Next, I set each morel on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer. I take care to make sure they are not clumped together but spread out. The morels need to be individually frozen. I usually let them freeze overnight, enough to make sure they are well frozen.

When I remove my morels from the freezer, I quickly put them in a freezer bag and get them back in the freezer. Lately, I’ve been using freezer bags that have a suction cap which allows me to remove excess air. I can't remove too much air. Morels are delicate and I can crush them if I'm over zealous.

Here’s why this method works so well for me and what you need to do when you cook your morels. Freezing floured morels individually on the baking sheet allows me to easily break them apart and cook as many or as little as I like. I simply remove the amount of morels I want to cook and immediately return the others to the freezer. But before I take them out of the freezer, I get my pan hot with melted butter. Then, I place each morel, cut side down, in the frying pan. I don't mess with them! They are thawing as they cook. Once one side is thoroughly cooked, I turn them over, individually again, and cook the other side. When my morels are thoroughly cooked, I then stir them in the pan the way I normally do when cooking fresh morels.

Follow this method, and you’ll be amazed at how fresh your morels taste and feel. And I'm all ears. Share your morel cooking techniques right here please.