Last year around the tail end May, I'd been getting skunked on morels. After I finally snagged a couple bags of mushrooms, I ate myself silly on them for a few days, then turned the rest into some oil based preserves with the rest of the young ramps I had.
Every year I try to share at least one recipe that use mushrooms preserved like this, or in a similar method. The reason is that preserved or pickled mushrooms have the closest texture to freshly cooked ones possible, and is a great alternative to drying or freezing.
Freezing denatures the texture and changes it, as does drying. Don't get me wrong, I use drying and freezing too if I feel like it, but generally, at a restaurant or at home, some sort of oil or vinegar based preserve will be the first thing I make when I want to preserve some mushrooms during the growing season to keep their fresh, tender texture.
Preserving mushrooms purely under oil can be good, but I wouldn't exactly say it's a preserve to make if you don't have at least a little amount of experience preserving things via air exclusion at home or in a professional setting, there isn't as much safe, forgiving acidity as with pickles. Fear not, I've adjusted this recipe so you don't have to worry.
That being said, one thing that you absolutely, positively must do:
For safety, the morels must always stay under the oil in the fridge, since exposure to air can invite bacterial growth, like any other pickle.
These oil based morels and ramp preserves are safe, and easy though. You may be wondering how.
It's simple, I cheat and added vinegar to mushrooms as I cook them, which lowers the ph of the morels to under 4.2, perfectly safe for a few months of storage. What you end up with is a preserve with a low ph of something that's been gently pickled, and the silky texture of an oil based preserve.
They were great on all kinds of things, and don't need to be processed in a water bath to hold for a while, although they could be. They're perfectly fine hanging out in the fridge until you need them, provided they stay underneath the oil and don't dry out, which, with the amount of oil in the recipe, shouldn't be a problem.
I kept a few batches with differing vinegar solutions around for a year, and ate them at different points of the year, afterwords I recorded the best one, and, here we are.
Uses for the morel preserves
You might be thinking, ok Alan, that sounds like a cute project, but after I preserve the morels, what can I do with them.
In short, think of these like a condiment, something just waiting to pop out of the jar and enhance something mild, and simple. Here's some places I would use them, note that I like to serve them warmed up or at room temperature. Pickled things taste very different when they're warm, and using the long shelf life has been a secret weapon of mine in restaurants for years.
Oh, one more thing, the oil is mostly for air exclusion/preservation purposes, when you want to eat the morels and ramps, lift them out of the jar with a slotted spoon. The oil can be used to make salad dressings, etc, or discarded.
Here's some ideas for using the preserves. They were great on some scrambled eggs.
- Spoon some over warm scrambled eggs
- Wilt some wild greens like you would spinach, then warm up the preserves and spoon some on top to make a dish of wilted nettles, amaranth, lambs quarter, etc, even more special
- Warm them up and spoon over some baked white-fleshed fish, and a few leaves of watercress
- Toss them with fresh sauteed morels, for a combo of fresh and pickled, they'll add a nice sparkle
- Warm them up and put on top of whatever piece of meat is for dinner
- Smear a piece of hot grilled bread with some butter, then top with warmed up preserves and some wilted greens
Morel Mushrooms and Ramps Preserved in Oil
- ¼ lb 4 oz fresh morel mushrooms
- 5 large ramps
- ¼ cup flavorless oil like grapeseed
- ¼-1/2 cup flavorful oil for topping off the jar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher or more to taste
- 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- Remove the leaves from the ramps, dice the leaves into ½ inch squares, slice the stems into ¼ inch slices, reserve both separately.
- Wash and clean the morels, then cut into ½ inch rounds. Warm the ¼ cup of oil, then add the morels, salt and heat until they wilt.
- Add the ramps, ramp leaves and vinegar, cook for another minute or two, then double check the seasoning for salt, transfer the mixture to a pint jar, top off with the additional oil, and allow to cool.
- Label, date, and refrigerate until needed. Enjoy the preserves within two months.
- If you want to can these in a water bath, you can, but I wouldn't can big batches of morels unless I got a banner haul, I can only remember one year where I canned 6 or so pints of pickles as well as eating and drying them.
- It's perfectly fine to keep the jars in the fridge, and that's really what I built this for. I ate one jar of mine after 6 months, and another after 8 months in the fridge and they were still as good as the day I packed them in the jar, but with the pleasant aging you'd expect from a good pickle.
- I suggest eating these a week or so after you make them, I only kept them in the fridge for an extended period for research.
- This is just a small batch so you can test the waters and make sure you like them, I know how precious your morels are. It could easily be scaled to larger batches, as long as the mushrooms are kept under the oil, they're fine.