My Methods for Cleaning and Storing Morels:
The first thing I do when I get home with my mushrooms is remove the bad parts from the morels; I just break those parts off with my fingers. I sort out the ones that are very ripe and should be eaten right away.
Then I carefully blow each morel off with my air compressor set at 40 psi; I hold my blow gun about four or five inches away from the morel and use a sweeping motion. I am using an oil-free air compressor with a moisture separator so I don’t get anything on them. At 40 psi, when I hold my blow gun really close to the morel I can usually blow off bad parts of the mushroom without doing too much damage. After this my morels are pretty clean and I place them into paper bags (never plastic or any closed container) at the lowest parts of my refrigerator. If I were to place them on the top shelf in my old fridge they could get frosted and destroyed. The morels need to breathe, if you put them in a sealed container, or even on plastic, they will go bad. They can store this way for a week or more, but they will slowly dry out. I don’t wash them until just before cooking, freezing, or drying. Once they are soaked they can go bad more quickly.
To wash the morels, some people will place them in a salt bath. This salt bath will bring the creepy crawlers out of the morels, but some say that this will adversely affect the flavor, so I use just water (I can’t see how the salt bath would get the little bits of sand and dirt out of the morels anyway). I found that my kitchen faucet didn’t have enough pressure to clean them effectively; I would notice a little bit of grit when eating my morels. People tell me that this is just how they are, and that you can’t get all of that out of there, but I like to try. I use an adjustable spray nozzle on my garden hose and try to get a spray that will clean them well but not blow them apart. I cup the morels in my hand while I spray, so if it breaks apart it won’t go flying. After cleaning the outside of the morel this way, I cut them in half lengthwise and the insides clean easily.
Once you have washed your morels, you can cook them up or preserve them. Two methods of preservation are freezing and drying. I prefer drying, since this preserves them longer.
Some people freeze morels after washing them, getting as much air out of freezer bags or other containers as possible. I try to use morels frozen this way within a few months; for me it doesn’t take long before there is some freezer burn. There is another method that I prefer; I cook them lightly in butter first, leaving much butter with the morels when I bag them. This makes it easy to get any air out and preserves them in the freezer for a long time. When you are ready to use them, just put them back in a skillet and finish cooking them. In the bag pictured are morels from last year. I had this bag inside of another freezer bag and I am confident that these morels would be as good as they were the day I made them, one year ago.
To dry morels, do not use a dehydrator unless you have one that has adjustable temperature and can operate at 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Most inexpensive dehydrators operate between 140 and 150 degrees. This higher temperature will actually cook the morels, and when rehydrated, they will not be as good.
The best way to dry morels is to first cut them in half (I do this when I clean them), then run a needle and thread through the half stem, stringing many of them together on the string. I tie a pony bead to the end of the thread; this keeps the morels from sliding off while I am stringing.
Hang this string in a sunny window. I like to use the mounts for my curtain rods, tying the ends of the string to these. Make sure that no morels are touching each other; wherever they are touching they will mold.
After two or three days your morels will have shrunk down considerably and will feel dry to the touch. If some feel a little squishy, they are not quite dry. Once completely dry, I place mine into paper bags again for a week or so. Then I put them into an air-tight container in my cupboard. If you go straight to an air-tight container after air-drying, be sure to open that container a couple of times a day and air them out. This will make sure there is no remaining moisture to cause mold.
Months down the road, when you get the craving for morels, simply soak the mushrooms in a milk bath for about two hours. I just leave the milk and morels in the refrigerator as they re-hydrate. Two cups of milk is adequate for an ounce of dried morels (an ounce dry is equivalent to a pound of fresh morels). If you search online about re-hydrating morels, you will see instructions to soak them in water. These people don’t know what they are talking about. Soaking them in water will leave them soggy and mushy. If you soak them in milk they will return closer to their original texture, it has something to do with the calcium in milk.