Due to the bizarro weather we’ve had around here lately, Mother Nature is all out of whack. Estimates on crop losses from the orchards around here are around 90%. Other edibles that aren’t as sensitive to frosts are ahead of schedule. Take morels for example.
My usual “window” for foraging morels runs somewhere from the 21st of April to Memorial Day. This year, hubby and I started finding those elusive fungi the last week in March. These photos are actually from the first three weeks of April. We did pretty well for a while, and I did dry some to use throughout the winter, but the season that started three weeks early seems to have dried up three weeks early as well. When I went searching on Mother’s Day 2012, I found only one, and that was an accident. It had been kicked over by someone or something and dried out long before I stumbled upon it.
Despite the fact that I didn’t find any morels on this year’s hike, I didn’t come home empty-handed. Dylan and I ran into my friend Stephanie and her kids. They were looking for ramps, so we joined them. Dylan and I came home with a mesh produce bag filled with ramps (or wild leeks). I’ve used some of them in cooking since then, but my real goal was to can them. More precisely, to pickle them.
If you can find them, pickled ramps can be quite pricey. I’ve made them before and everyone that’s ever tried them loves them. However, I’ve become quite a hoarder. I dole them out sparingly to friends and family members that will appreciate them as much as I do. When we open a jar, it is hard not to eat the entire thing. Once all the delicious ramps have been devoured from the pickling brine, I add it to BBQ sauces, marinades and dressings; the flavor is exquisite.
From the bag Dylan and I brought home, I managed to can five half-pint jars. This isn’t enough for me to check #58 off of my 101 in 1001, but it is a good start. It also gets me 1.25 quarts closer to my pickle goal for #53!
For the recipe, check out my Jerked Onion recipe from the Can Jam and substitute whole ramps for the cut onions, or click here for a printable version: Jerk Pickled Ramps Printable Recipe
So hubby beat me to the punch on the first morels this year, but we went out again this morning. At last! My first morels of the season.
Can you see them?
Look closely; they're elusive.
How about now?
Even close up they hide well.
It takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the ground cover, but it’s worth the time spent. Here are the same mushrooms in my hand for size comparison.
Number four and five.
We spent about three hours hunting and ended up with this:
Nice variety of mushrooms from the same general area.
The big whites are just starting to appear. Hopefully I can get out again soon.
During the Dark Days dinner challenge, I wrote a post called Morel Madness. It included some of last year’s mushroom harvest. If you’re not familiar with them, morels are highly prized mushrooms. Although I recently saw a half pint of fresh morels at the grocery store for $15, dried morels online range from $10-$20 an ounce. Around here, morels are a pretty big deal. Traverse City might be the Cherry Capital, but Mesick is the Mushroom Capital.
We usually start looking for the elusive fungi around Mr. Hippie’s birthday, April 21st. The weather has been strange so I checked a few spots early but didn’t have any luck. I came home from work this afternoon to find these:
First 'shrooms of the season.
Mr. Hippie beat me to the punch! I’m not complaining; where there’s one, there are more. Plus, I get to help eat them. 🙂
Some people will tell you not to soak your mushrooms, but take my advice: soak your mushrooms. Last year I didn’t soak some of my mushrooms right away and the bugs that were in them consumed a good portion of the mushrooms. I didn’t spend all that time finding them so that the bugs could eat them.
I put the mushrooms in a bowl, salt them liberally and fill the bowl with water. It chases the bugs out. Let them soak an hour or so, drain them and cook them or dry them to use in the future.