I purchased a house in Michigan last August and have been excited to go morel mushroom hunting like I used to when I was a kid. I have gone out over the years with my brother but haven’t had any success. We just never hit the right time and the right place.
Once the sun started to pop, the temperature hit some 70 to 80 degree days and we had some good rain showers, I went out hunting in MI. I explored woods in the area, looking for just the right spots where I might find morels. My brother always said to look near fallen elms, dead but not too dead, on a mostly shady slope but where there is enough heat and sun in the area to germinate the spores. I found what I thought to be perfect morel growing environment and yet not one morel.
So I broke down and spent the $45 a pound the locals (actually LaPorte, Indiana is where they were from) charged so that I could at least enjoy some morel mushrooms this season.
I splurged and bought two pounds. The first pound I used to make morel mushroom and asparagus lasagna. I was so excited about this dish: fresh pasta, unbelievable fresh asparagus you can get in this area, fresh heavy cream, a little shallot, tarragon, swiss and parmesan cheese. I thought for sure this was going to be a winner. Alas, all I could taste was asparagus and tarragon, and I was incredibly disappointed. I thought perhaps I was just too heavy handed on the tarragon and asparagus so I should take a simpler approach in my next meal.
One of my very favorite things to prepare with morels are eggs and a little fresh asparagus for breakfast. I thought after the last disaster that I would be as simple as possible, simply sauté morels and eggs with salt and pepper… which should highlight the mushroom. Once again, nothing… the morels I got just didn’t have much flavor, sadly to say $90 later.
I decided to dry the last half pound of mushrooms. Drying always intensifies the flavor and it would allow me to create some other delicious dishes outside of morel season. I simply took my morels, cut them in half and soaked them in water for about 30 minutes to get the dirt and critters out.
I took a string and strung them so they didn’t touch each other and hung them in a cool dry environment and let them hang until completely dry, about three weeks.
You can store these in a jar with a tight fitting lid for a while but they can mold if there is any moisture at all so be sure to watch them. You can reconstitute the dried mushrooms later by soaking them in water. These are great for risotto, just make sure to reserve the soaking liquid and use that in your dish too.
But I didn’t stop there! I decided to make some morel mushroom salt. The salt acts as a preservative so I don’t have to worry about mold and it intensifies the flavor of the mushroom even more. I took the mushrooms and ground them in a mini chopper and added kosher sea salt.
I ended up with about 4 ounces of ground morel mushrooms and added 36 ounces of salt to it. The ratio isn’t that critical since a little mushroom goes a long way.
If you use more or less, the result will still be great. I put the salt into mason jars with lids and will let it steep for a good month before I use it. It will last indefinitely if kept in a cool dark place.
This the first time making this salt, so I will need to report back with some recipes. I am going to try it on popcorn for sure. The truffle salt we carry at The Chopping Block is so popular on popcorn, and I think this salt will be too. Sprinkling it on mashed potatoes, eggs, pasta, fish, chicken and steak will be great. I am especially excited to try making some crackers and breads with the salt.
Now that you know how to dry and preserve morel mushrooms, do you have any other ideas on what I should do with the salt? Let me know in the comments. Perhaps your ideas will inspire some dishes for an upcoming cooking class!