They’re only found in the spring. They’re loved by “most” everyone. Their location is a huge secret. They pop up overnight and disappear just as fast. They’re worth their weight in gold. They cause family feuds. At the moment, their season is coming to an end. What are these divine little creatures?? Some call them morels, merkels, golden mushroom and we call them delicious. I grew up knowing them as merkels and Dad would take us to the mountains and old apple orchards to search for this elusive food in early spring. The merkels we found as a child were thick, 2 to 3 inches tall and a creamy white. I had four other siblings that went on this adventure and it was always a race to find the most and biggest, much like the family Easter egg hunts.
After I got married I found out there was more to the story. My husband’s family called them merkels or morels and the season to find them came when the first green sprouts of spring popped up in the woods. The best year was April or very early May with warm days and nights and wet. The first of the season tended to be darker, somewhat thinner and much bigger depending on where you found them than the ones I grew up finding. The location tended to be in stands of poplar and pine trees and usually popping up through the leaves. We would be walking through the woods and find two or three and come back an hour later and find a sack full. It’s always a fun outing for just the two of us or the whole family. This year they came in early and we almost missed it due to our short winter and early spring. That being said, hubby and some friends went two weeks ago and found about 100 each. We’ve had some wonderful meals since this find. Now that they’ve been carried home, what to do next????
To prepare them, first they must be cleaned thoroughly. The morels are home to very tiny mites and to get rid of them we wash the mushrooms, split them in half, and soak in a pot of salted, room temperature water for about 20 – 30 minutes. We think the salt kills the mites and we rinse the morels several times until no more mites are floating on top of the water. I spread them out on a clean towel and let most of the moisture soak up in it. Then I store them in a large bowl (if you’re lucky enough to have found that many) in the fridge until they’re ready to cook. You usually don’t have to wait long to cook them because everyone wants them for breakfast, lunch and supper. I’ve even been know to fry up a batch and put three or four on a hot biscuit with a slice of tomato and no wonder I’m so wide!!!!!!!!!!!
To cook them, I put about two cups of seasoned flour in a ziploc bag and drop a handful of the mushrooms in the bag at a time. While doing this, melt a stick (yes, a whole stick) of butter in the skillet and melt to crackling but not burned, along with a tablespoon of cooking oil (I use olive oil). Once the butter is completely melted and sizzling, place the well floured morels in the skillet until the skillet is full and fry to a golden brown on one side. Turn each one over and do the same thing to the other side. We like for them to be a little crisp (like a good piece of fried chicken). Remove from skillet and enjoy!! These little darlings taste so good with some fresh steamed asparagus and sliced tomatoes. The asparagus should be popping out of the ground at about the same time but it has a longer season than the morels. I’ve tried freezing them, drying them, partially cooking and freezing but they just don’t do well. If you have a method you use, please let me know. Morels are a wonderful spring treat and restaurants would die for them. We’ve tried a couple times to raise them from ads we’ve seen in magazines but don’t waste your money. They are a gift of nature!!
Take a walk with the family and enjoy this wonderful gift of nature!!