The Morel of the Story

Morels2

Seeing morels pop up in blogs everywhere reminded me that I better do something with the stash of poached morels I had in my freezer. The box arrived around 2 weeks ago, all 6 lbs of freshly-picked perky morels. The aroma that lingered in the refrigerator where I stored them for a few hours was well – earthy which was lovely – but not so if you had to refrigerate a cream-frosted cake in the same refrigerator the next day. So plan your morel storage wisely for they do take up your fridge in more ways than one.

I have never heard of morels until 2 years ago. In the mid-spring of 2005, my friend J called me and said morels were in season. I asked her what they were so she patiently explained to me that they were wild mushrooms with an incredible earthy flavor and had a peak season of maybe only 3 weeks. Never having had them before much less cooked them, I asked her how they should be prepared. She said “Just CLEAN them very well and cook them in butter.”

            The day of delivery arrived and the “hungry” hubby went to pick them up. I talked to J again that morning and she reminded me to “clean” them well. “Hmmn” I thought to myself,”these morels must be really muddy or gritty.” I called the hubby later that day and I asked him how our precious morels were doing.

            He replied, “They are full of worms.”

            “What ?!”, I shrieked.

            The hubby said, when he got to J’s house, she was sautéing her batch of mushrooms in butter and there were white worms crawling out; she merely picked them off while she was cooking them. She offered a morel to the hubby to taste. The “hungry” hubby told me, “It was quite tasty” (I assumed he meant the mushroom and not the worms!)

            So when I got home that day, I decided to deal with the morels right away. They are intimidating mushrooms … all 5lbs of them. Some of them were quite large. They have deep crevices so I had to cut them in half and soak them quickly in cold water with a bit of salt. A lot of worms fell off. I proceeded to poach them in butter and I still saw the worms trying to escape the heat. I almost made a decision never to buy morels again but after I had the first taste of one I quickly changed my mind. They were earthy alright. They make you dream of far away meadows where the sun breaks the mist to reveal the precious bounty of our good earth.

            Such was my induction to the world of morels.

            Last year, not wanting to undergo the process of cleaning the morels, I ordered only 1 lb. each of dark and blond morels. I wished I ordered more. There were hardly any worms in that batch. The blond morels were not as tasty as the dark ones so I made a mental note not to order them again.

Morels1

So this year I had 6lbs. of dark morels and they were as fresh and as clean as the 2006 batch. It was a pretty nail-biting 2007 season. I waited with bated breath as spring snow storms plundered through the Midwest. I thought for sure morel season will be non-existent this year. But Mother Nature, though quite the tease, did reward us who hang on.

I am more confident now in dealing with this wonderful-tasting fungus. They need to be attended to the day you get them. I cut them in half (if there are any unwanted critters they most likely are in the center), put them in a colander, and plunge them very briefly in a big bowl of cold water mixed with a few capfuls of white vinegar. I shake the colander a bit to get out whatever grit might be lodged in its folds. Then I take them out to dry quickly. I then proceed to poach them for about 2 to 4 minutes in lots of butter. When they are cool enough, I pack them in appropriate-size Ziploc bags with a bit of the poaching butter, let them cool, and then freeze them immediately. For my 6 lbs of morels I probably used 1 ½ lbs of butter.

For my first taste of morels this season, I merely sautéed some shallots in butter, added the morels, then salt and pepper to taste. These accompanied a couple of Wagyu and Black Angus steaks. I’m still tingling from that combination! For some reason morels go so well with red meat perhaps because their fleshy texture is so much like meat.

Morelpasta

They also go very well with pasta. I visited 80 Breakfasts blog earlier this week and Joey had her crispy sage and brown butter pasta.  I followed her recipe (okay I forgot the lemon) and just added the morels which were sautéed first in shallots. It was out of this world delicious! Thanks Joey for the inspiration!

A site, I recently discovered is The Great Morel website. They have numerous tips for preserving what they call this “ephemeral rite of spring”. Next year, when I get my morels I shall make sure I’ll have more time to experiment with the preserving techniques detailed on this site.

So what is the moral of this story? It is very basic really. It’s the perfect example of try and try again. If I had been totally turned off the first time I had the morels that had all those worms to clean, then I will not be enjoying this beautiful batch this time around. I made a mistake last year by ordering only 2 pounds but this year I have learned my lesson. I will now have morels to enjoy for many months to come! Good food comes to those who plan and persevere.

13 thoughts on “The Morel of the Story

  1. Oh, man. Salivary glands in high gear. The last time I went to Seattle, I came back with my carryon stuffed full of morels from the Pike St. Market. It never occurred to me to freeze them; I just gorged on them till they were gone. GOOD stuff.

    Why do you acidulate the water to rinse them in?

  2. I always dry some of my morels so that I can enjoy them longer. And yes, frying them in butter is really the best thing you can do to them!

  3. Sounds fab. Where do you order them from? I always end up having to substitute (which isn't nearly the same) or use the dried and reconstituted ones, which are definitely not the same. The worms sound pretty interesting. I'm thinking I couldn't get my hubs to be that cheerful about tasting once seeing them.

    Anyway — I love the whole sage, pasta combo, and the morels sound delicious with it!

  4. Hi Rob – the lady I got the morels from told me to put white vinegar in the water. I this is for mildly cleaning it.
    Thanks Tanna – I find that the simple recipes let the mushrooms take the starring role.
    You are so right Brilynn. You can never go wrong with morels and butter.
    Hi Kellypea – I order from this lady who has a personal chef license. That way she gets the price that restaurants would get when they order. I know you can also order them from earthy.com.

  5. Yikes! The image of the worms is enough to keep me away from morels. But it won't, because they are simply too delectable. I had my first taste at a restaurant in San Fransisco a couple of years ago, but haven't cooked with them yet. Thanks for the inspiring post!

  6. Oh! I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe! And how could you not with those beautiful morels! How I envy your yearly harvest…a fresh morel for me remains a fantasy. To have 6 lbs…what a dream! 🙂

    I agree…try and try again. And always give food a second chance to win you over 🙂

  7. Veron, I had morels marinated in balsamic vinegar this week at a raw foods restaurant (stay tuned for the story). They were exquisite! Where do you order yours from?

  8. I've bought morels from the market, and hope to find some in the wild in the countryside this weekend. I haven't noticed any worms though (there's always some in the wild autumn mushrooms), which is good, as I'd have hard time eating the mushrooms then:)

  9. Veronica, having grown up in far N. Michigan, I have been fortunate to have had wild morels my entire life. We had several nice morel trees in the backyard that always had copious amounts of them around and underneath. I have to admit though to letting my dad do the morel cleaning owing to a complete aversion to worms. Luckily, the small batches of fresh ones I get have not had them. Try pickled morels. They make a fantastic addition to a antipasto plate.

  10. Hi Susan – I was hesistant to post about the worms, but really that was my most memorable experience involving the morels…besides their delectable taste ofcourse.
    Joey – I can always depend on your site for great recipes!
    Hi T.W. -I've never had them in balsamic vinegar. oooh can't wait for you to post about your experience at the raw foods restaurant.
    Oh Pille – good luck with your morel hunting. How I wish I could go on a morel hunt too.
    Hi Sarina – You kinda get over the worms after a while ;).
    Breadchick – Lucky you, I always wondered about finding morels in my backyard. Pickled morels sound fantastic!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s