|Fruit o the Morel|
The "naturals" come before the wild-fire borne morels, so says the picker, and I have no reason to doubt them his expertise, although I did walk away shaking my head as he continued to rant about Obama and what "they say" are his impeachable offenses.
The guy's politics are not enough to make me pass on the fresh mushrooms in a bin propped up under the shade of his pickup canopy. (If it were a Dodge, I'd pass, but it's a Ford, so OK.) Also, his price is 33% below that in the stores and farmers market, and they're clean, firm, not too old or bug-eaten at all.
Not irrelevant to this decision is the fact that I felt the need to go harvest shallot scapes and make use of them before they got too big and tough. And so it was that a few hours later, an age-old skillet that got my dad through grad school many long years ago got a taste of allium-mushroom-butter. Attacked by a bout of forethought, I decided to slice up the bigger (less likely to quickly dry) morels first. Here is what that kind of fresh looks like:
But the kind of deal I got feels too good to fritter away on a few ounces of fungal goodness, and I purchased a pound. Which in turn is too much to fritter away on a meal eaten alone. With all the big scapes cut, I could've tossed the shrooms in a paper bag in the fridge and reapeated this gistatory goodness in a few days, but the cheapskate in me has touble eating that high on the hog twice in a week. So the tuna can came out of the cupboard and the remaining morels went into the oven to dry out.
You may have guessed by now that I am not the kind of guy to have a food dehydrator, and the day in question was cloudy with intermittent rain, so sun-drying was not an option. So into the wee convection oven they went. Various web pages dedicated to mushroom-drying advise against exceeding 175 degrees fahrenheit, lest the psychoactive chemicals degrade, and even thought I am in a different genus, interested only in food, I figured 150 was good. The fan keeps the air circulating, and a fork propped in the door lets moisture escape. This particular oven shuts off after 30 minutes, and I just kept rpeating the process until the mushrooms were hard little nuggets, like this:
Drying morels this way realeases and maybe bakes the spores, causing this nice pattern to appear on the pan. The cooled morels went into a mason jar for later use. They smelled intense, no hint of burn, and it seems like my ad hoc dryer worked just fine.