by Gilbert Randolph
Larger morels can be sliced, while smaller ones can be cooked whole.
Sycamore groves in a floodplain, the austere trunks of cottonwoods, the short, scraggly ash, all bear the reputation of producing morels. The yearly rush to find these lumpy, Spongebob reminiscent mushrooms is a tradition with liturgical clout that reaches back generations. Morels have the luxury of being amongst the first species to fruit in the new year when the woods are still relatively cool, the ticks a bit less thick, and when turkey hunting, shed hunting, and fishing draw people back out from their wintering dens.
I’m no morel finding expert, an apprentice maybe, but I found a honey hole this year. This patch of mixed sycamores and box elders has thus far yielded over two hundred mushrooms. Even sharing some of this harvest with friends, neighbors, and family has left me with some to spare, so I decided that I wanted to try an alternate preservation method. Whereas dehydrating is often the chosen way, eastern Europe, a region with deep mushroom heritage, inspired me to try something else, pickled mushrooms. This recipe is based on Hank Shaw’s pickled chanterelle recipe, which can be found here. Whereas his is a true canning recipe, mine is a “fridge canning,” version, which doesn’t require the canning process. These pickled mushrooms will last for around six months in the fridge, though I’ve let them go longer without issue.
Beaver cuts and sycamore groves can be productive late-season morel spots.
Before I get into the recipe, however, here are some tips on how to have mushroom success.
#1 Learn to identify habitat: morels often grow in disturbed, sandy soil. They can be found in the slopes leading into river bottoms, but I have had most of my luck on the floor of riparian forests.
#2 Learn to identify trees: My favorite trees in the beginning of the season are cottonwood, elm, and box elder. Groves where these species intermingle, as well as a healthy amount of deadfall and patches of brush, are reliable producers for me. Late season, sycamores can produce incredible flushes. They are some of the easiest trees to identify and are abundant in lowland ecosystems.
#3 Keep Walking: The main ingredient for success in mushroom hunting is miles covered. Persistence and getting off the trail are the main way of finding morels. Chances are, if there is a footpath, someone else has been there before you. If you’re willing to plunge into the woods, you might also find your next deer or turkey hotspot as well!
#4 Check Your Spots Multiple Times: If you find morels in a spot one week, check them again in a few days. It’s very common to have multiple fruiting events around one area, even at the base of one particular tree. You might also find mushrooms you’d simply overlooked on your first pass.
Now that you have some mushroom knowledge under your belt, let’s talk about this unique way of preserving some of your morel harvest! While this recipe is for morels, it will also work with chanterelles, oyster mushrooms, and more!
Pickled Morel Mushrooms
- 1 1/2 pound morels, sliced in rounds
- 2 cups white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, or whatever you have)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup of sweet, white wine (like Moscato)
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp salt
- Clean your mushrooms. Dry sauté them in a large pan.
- Once they’ve released their moisture, add in thyme, oregano, and black pepper. Stir and cook for one minute.
- Add vinegar, white wine, water, and salt. Stir and let come to a boil.
- Boil for five minutes then scoop mushrooms out of the brine with a slotted spoon.
- Put mushrooms in jars, leaving at least an inch of headspace. Pour the brine into the jars and keep that inch or so of headspace. Put them in the fridge and they’ll be good up to six months!
For more creative wild food recipes, you can go to www.thenerdventure.wordpress.com, follow me on Instagram @gilbertwriting, or check out the Nerdventure Facebook page!
Photos by the author.