Morels are fragile, delicate, fungi that need the gentlest care. They will fall apart quickly when over-handled. It is best to eat morel mushrooms within four days of picking them. After 4-5 days, they will not be good to eat so make sure you plan to use them fresh or preserve them.
Preparation for Storing
Choose only the morel mushrooms that are firm, a little moist, and spring back a bit when touched. If there are any that are really dry or really slimy, discard them.
Morel mushrooms should not be washed until they are ready to be used. Wet mushrooms go bad quickly when stored.
The best way to store fresh morels is by putting them in a brown paper bag with a damp (not wet!) paper towel and placing the bag in the refrigerator. Do not use plastic bags. Morels need air flow; they need to “breathe”, and a paper bag provides that and can maintain freshness. It can be a fine balance. The mushrooms need to be a little moist to remain fresh yet if they are too wet they will turn slimy. If they are allowed to dry out, they won’t be very good for cooking.
If the mushrooms are going to be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, do not clean them until right before using them. The dirt helps them stay fresh longer. They should not be washed or handled any more than necessary right up until the moment you intend to cook them.
Insects, dirt, and all manner of debris can get stuck in the pitted areas of the morel mushroom. Morels are one of the harder mushrooms to clean because of those pits and because they grow in the ground. This makes them particularly prone to debris. There are two schools of thought regarding the best way to clean morels. While people tend to choose a camp, there really isn’t a method that is better than the other. There are two main methods and the one a person chooses is a preference.
The Never-Soak-Mushrooms Method
A large number of mushroom foragers advocate never soaking mushrooms as a means of cleaning them. The main reason is that the majority of mushrooms soak up water and then turn into sponges. Literally, the mushrooms will need to be wrung out or drained for a long time. Morels in particular quickly become sponges.
To clean morels without soaking, put them quickly under cold running water for a moment. Then, take a toothbrush or mushroom cleaning brush and use it to lightly scrub out the pitted areas. Finally, pat the mushrooms dry with a paper towel.
This method is great if you have a small number of mushrooms. If you have a lot, this method can be unbearably time-consuming.
The Salt-Water Method
Since morels are notoriously hard to clean, the other mushroom cleaning camp says soaking them is the only way not to end up with gritty mushrooms. Or, just as bad, spending hours hunched over the sink cleaning the pits of each little mushroom.
In this method, salt water is used because bugs hate it and will remove themselves quickly. Also, salt dislodges dirt and debris easier. A couple of tablespoons of salt per gallon of cold water is all that is needed. Swish the morels around in the water a few times and leave them to sit for 30 minutes. Then, remove the morels to a clean strainer, rinse them under cold water, and let them drain. After they have drained, move them to a paper towel to dry out more.
Before cooking the morels, slice them in half to ensure that all of the debris and dirt is removed. A lot of it will collect in the hollow center of the mushroom which is why it is a good idea to cut them open to double-check. Eating a mushroom with residual grit stuck to it is not a pleasant experience. Make sure your morels are completely clean before cooking them.