The Elusive Morel Mushroom
Hey, let’s talk morel mushrooms folks. So, we finally made it to spring here in the Midwest. Winter definitely did not give in easily this year, and I cannot recall ever having such a late spring during my lifetime so far. I sure was glad to see spring come.
Since winter held on so long, anyone looking to find morels has had to wait patiently because temperatures and conditions were terrible until the last week here in Central Illinois where I’m located. Unfortunately, we went from 50-degree daytime temperatures to 80-degree temperatures in about a week. Not good – we really needed a few weeks of 60-70 degrees, but no such luck.
I started searching for the elusive morel mushroom around Central Illinois about two weeks ago and only just found some the weekend of May 5-6, well behind when I would normally start finding these little delicacies.
I have never really foraged for morels anywhere other than Illinois where I live. While doing some research, I discovered that around Illinois and the Midwest, black, grey, white, and yellow morels can be found. Having never seen a black morel around where I live, I’m not sure I would be able to spot those. If you would like some additional information about the morels found around Illinois, Here is the link to a great article written by Dr. Anthony Bratsch, Horticulture Educator at the University of Illinois.
If you have never tasted a morel you are truly missing out. If you are not a fan of commercially available mushrooms, you probably will not appreciate a morel either, but you might want to give them a try anyway – hey, you never know.
As I write this post, the morel “season” is well underway and not many have been found, and those found have been sparse and small size. However, I wanted to share some of my finds, recent and past, with my readers, and show you how I cook my morels. So, without further ado, enjoy the photos and feel free to share some of your pictures or ideas on preparation.
Recent find – May 2018
I found about a dozen last weekend and all were this size and pretty hard to spot. I finally found the first one, got on my knees and then started to see quite a few others nearby. I’ll go back to the same area in a few days and probably will find several more.
Various past years
As you can see, some of these can get to be pretty large. This is about as big as I have ever found. I have seen photos of some very large morels, so I know they can get pretty large, but usually, you won’t find them much bigger than this.
How I prepare morels
I have seen a variety of ways to prepare the morel mushrooms – sauteed, in a sauce, fried, and other variations. But, let’s face it, folks, everything is better fried 🙂 If you are dieting, live a little – they only come around once per year.
- Oyster Crackers
- 1-2 Eggs
- Pepper (you likely will not need extra salt)
- Fill a zip-lock baggie about half full – more if you are preparing a larger batch, with oyster crackers. I like oyster crackers over saltines but it is kind of your choice or whatever you have around.
- Zip the baggie up and crush the crackers until they are pretty fine. I like the crackers as fine as I can get them – roll them with a rolling pin and get the really crushed. See photo – crush at least to this consistency so the coating gets into the spaces of the mushroom
- Once the cracker is crushed, break your eggs into a bowl and beat the egg thoroughly
- Dip your morel in the egg, making sure they are covered with egg. It doesn’t take too much, just enough to get the cracker to stick to the morel.
- Drop your coated morel right in your zip-lock baggie full of crushed cracker as below
- Zip the baggie and shake the morels gently. Morels are delicate, so don’t squeeze or get too vigorous or you’ll be upset with the result.
- You’re ready for the frying pan 🙂
- I always use real butter – it just tastes better. You can use oil or vegetable spread
- Place a generous amount of butter in your skillet and heat on Med-high for several minutes. You want the butter really hot to toast the batter
- Your coated morels should sizzle when placed in the hot butter – if not, it’s not hot enough and you will get soggy mushrooms
- Cook on Med-high for about 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until the morels are toasted well. See my photos below – you only need to toast the batter well for these to be fully cooked
- Once your morels look like photo #2 on both sides, they are done.
Enjoy your morels with about any dish, or just sit in front of the TV and pop them in your mouth like an appetizer. Don’t forget your big glass of Southern Sweet Tea.
There you have it folks – A little teaser to wet your appetites for these once per year delicacies. So, get out there and start looking because the season won’t last long.
Have fun looking. Don’t forget your insect repellent – Ticks are very active this time of the year and they like to hide in the same places as our beloved morels.
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