It’s the season for morel mushroom hunting!! These tasty mushrooms are only around for a short time so if you want them you need to get out there as soon as you can! Here is a guide to hunting that will help you understand what they are, where to find them, and ways to cook them!
Also called dryland fish, hickory chickens, merkels, molly moochers, muggins, and sponge mushrooms, morels are known for their superior taste and texture. These mushrooms have a cap that looks somewhat like a honeycomb with ridges and pits throughout. The color of the moral can change depending on where they grow but typically they will be white, yellow, and black. These mushrooms seem to have some sort of a bond with trees and the abundance of wooded areas in Michigan make it the perfect environment for the to grow. Unfortunately there are other mushrooms out there that look just like morels and are poisonous. You need to take care to check every mushroom you gather to ensure that it is a true morel and not one of these toxic fakes. The easiest way to find out if you have a true morel is to split it down the middle and look in the center of the stem. The fake ones have a substance in them that look like cotton while the real deal will be hollow. When you’re out hunting keep in mind that even real morels contain a thermolabile toxin. Don’t eat them raw. Cooking them changes this toxin and makes them safe but a raw one may make you sick. So now that you know what it is you’re looking for, where do you find them?
Where to Hunt
Springtime is morel season so get your hunt planned around this time. Things tend to grow well in the spring because the trees do not yet have their leaves and the sun is able to warm the ground. As you begin to see flowers and other plants pop up, you will know that morels are around as well. Black morels are usually the first to appear and tend to hang out near hardwood forests but not really next to the trees. The spores of these delicious little fungi are sent out into the wind to spread so once you find one you just need to figure out the wind pattern to find more. The white morels come a little later and grow in a variety of places. Great places to look for these are in the woods, fields, orchards, and floodplains. Look for trees that may be dying. These mushrooms feed off the dead roots and will congregate around them. If you can find a place that had a fire you will probably find a ton of morels. Once you have found your spot, crouch down and get a close look at the ground. They’re not huge mushrooms so you will want to really keep your eye open for them. Keep in mind that you cannot just hunt wherever you want! Ensure that you are not trespassing on private property because then it becomes stealing. Try to find public land or private owned land that allows picking. Some people will allow you to hunt on their land as long as you pay for what you take.
When you get home with your haul you will want to start getting them ready for either the great dishes you have planned or to store for later use. One way to keep them fresh for later use is to flash freeze them. This means run them under cold water and then lay them out on a flat pan and put them in the freezer. The only downfall to this method is that they can get a but mushy when you cook them. The other way to store them that lasts the longest is to dry them. In order to dry them you want to place them on a screen, elevated off the ground, in the sun. Make sure the screen you use is not metal as it can cause some issues and give them a metallic taste. You will want to get them set up in the morning and let them dry all day. It will take around 8 to 10 hours so plan ahead. Once they are completely dried you can store them in a paper bag. When you’re ready to use them just soak them in cool water for a couple of hours. You can even use the water afterward for soup broth or gravy.
When you’re ready to cook them the best way is to simply fry them in a pan with butter. Morels are a perfect as a side dish for fish, topping for pizza, or in a sauce! Here are some great recipes that will put your morels to great use.
Golden Fish with Morels
This is a great meal with all kinds of nutritional benefits. If you can get out on a lake and catch your own fish the flavor of this dish will be out of this world!
Fresh caught perch, bluegill, or other white fish, fillets
1 small sweet onion sliced into rings
1 1/2 teaspoon Olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasonings
Morel mushrooms cleaned and sliced
Heavy duty tin foil
- Lay out 2 pieces of the tin foil, large enough to make packets out of when the food is in them.
- On each piece of foil place the sliced onion rings, and then the fish on top. Drizzle with the oil and butter and then sprinkle on the lemon pepper seasonings.
- Bring two sides of the foul up to meet over the top of the fish and fold them together downward. Roll the two open ends to seal the packet.
- Cook the packets in the coals of the fire, over the grill, or in a 350 degree oven for around 20 minutes or until the fish flakes.
- Serve with a side of steamed asparagus for an exquisite meal!
This is no ordinary pizza. This pie uses a couple things that are in season by combining the great taste of those morels with asparagus.
1 packet active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour split
1 1/2 durham wheat flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
10 oz morel mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup sliced onion
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons snipped fresh thyme
8 oz asparagus chopped
8 oz gouda cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil (plus a little extra)
- In a large bowl combine the yeast packet and 1 1/4 cups warm water and let stand around 5 min or until yeast is dissolved.
- Add 2 cups all-purpose flour, durham wheat flour, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and sugar and mix until combined. Take the dough out of the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Kneed in remaining all purpose flour a little at a time until you get a smooth elastic dough. You may not need to use all the remaining flour.
- Lightly coat the dough in olive oil and then place in a bowl in a warm place to rise. It should double in size and take around an hour to an hour and a half.
- While you wait for the dough, heat the butter in a skillet and cook the morels until they begin to soften. Add in the onion, apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons water, and thyme. Cook, stirring constantly, 4 to 6 minutes are until onions are tender. Add in the asparagus and cook, stirring constantly, for an additional 2 min and then remove from heat.
- Preheat oven to 475 F. Grease 2 baking sheets and dust them with cornmeal. Punch down the dough and split it in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll them out until they are about 1/8 thick. Place each on its own baking sheet.
- Brush each pizza crust with a little olive oil and divide the mushroom mixture and cheese between the two. Bake each pizza on the lowest rack of the oven for around 12 minutes or it reaches the desired crispness.