May is Morel month here in Wisconsin
Not long after the snow melts and the ground begins to warm up, the ChoiceMorels mushroom pickers start heading out to the hardwood forests along the Mississippi river valley, scanning the earth for these elusive treats. Some of the first black morels of the season are barely the size of your pinkie. They start small and slow. As the days warm and the rain falls, we start bringing in larger and larger blacks and grays along with a few blondes. By mid-May the blacks and grays get larger, and the blondes and yellows start showing up the size of a beer can. This is ChoiceMorel season!
The season is short, and it is a busy time here at ChoiceMorels. As the morels come in, they are processed usually the same day they are picked to preserve freshness and flavor.
The battle of the colors - black, gray, blonde, yellow
Let's get ready to rumble... The bottom line? They are ALL delicious. Some people prefer the supposedly richer flavor of the blacks and grays. Some people prefer the supposedly richer flavor of the yellows and blondes. Paradox indeed! We keep 'em separate and offer both choices so you can try them all and judge for yourself.
Cleaning and Preparation
These are truly WILD mushrooms, and need some special care. First we pick out the best. Not all morel mushrooms are up to the quality needed to become ChoiceMorels. We separate the prime from chaff, and return the spore-laden chaff back to the forests to promote the growth of more morels in coming years.
Next, each morel is carefully split lengthwise. This is done for three reasons. First, sometimes little critters like to make their happy home in the hollow inside. Next, it increases the surface area and improves moisture reduction during the quick sauté they are about to receive. Finally, bite-size pieces make for a 'ready-to-use' product.
Just before they hit the hot sauté griddle, the morels receive a very VERY quick rinse. So quick that they don't have a chance to absorb any additional moisture, but long enough to insure a pristine product.
The secret of ChoiceMorels
The secret is the sauté! This is what makes Choice Morels work. Like many fresh foods, morel mushrooms are mostly water. The key is to quickly, but not fully, sauté the fresh morels in light vegetable oil. This step removes a ton of water from these shrooms! And more importantly allows us to freeze them for long periods and preserved their insane deliciousness.
ChoiceMorels are a ready-to-use partly finished ingredient. You can thaw them out and use them as you would fresh morels. Any time of the year! Finish to your perfection...
The final steps
The cleaned and sautéed morels are quickly cooled, then flash frozen to lock in flavor and preserve texture. The last step is to weigh and vacuum seal them into clear 2-ply nylon/poly vacuum bags. We want to allow anyone to break out a bag of ChoiceMorels in February and have them be as good as the day they were picked way back in May.
Dried morels? Yeah, right
Some folks claim dried morels taste just like fresh. We're not quite sure what happened to their taste buds. Have you ever had dried morels? If so, you know they are only a distant cousin to their fresh counterparts. In the old days, our family dried morels for many years before developing the ChoiceMorels secrets. Dried morels have a stronger taste which certainly has a place in some soups, sauces and gravies. But the delicate yet rich and meaty flavors and al dente texture of the fresh counterpart are gone forever. Rehydrated dried morels are limper than, well, never mind. They're limp.
Let's just throw them in the freezer
Been there. Done that. Sorry, but this does not work. The result is a puffy fluffy fungi which has completely lost it's meaty flavor and texture. Because of the high moisture content of morels, simply throwing them into the chill chest compromises flavor and destroys texture. The typical slow-freezing technique commonly used allows time for large ice crystals to form, breaking down cell walls and destroying the delicate texture of morels.
We like to compare morels to spinach. You would not dry out, and then rehydrate fresh spinach. And you would not just throw fresh spinach into the freezer. You need to prepare it first. For spinach this means blanching. For morels the process is a little different, but if they are not properly prepared for long term preservation, the results are simply a waste of time.
The correct choice...
The answer? Pick them fresh. Sort and clean them carefully. Sauté to perfection to remove moisture and lock in flavor. Flash freeze. Vacuum seal. Ship and eat! The answer is... ChoiceMorels.
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