One of the most delicious bellwethers of spring is morel season. A prized variety of mushroom that is found in damp conditions at the base of certain varieties of trees, morels are extraordinarily tasty and are sought after by discerning chefs and gourmands alike. Morels are at their peak beginning in April, but they can be found as early as February. Though cultivated, morels appear in the wild, thus people who go looking for them are “hunters.” Hike through the many public morel-hunting spots here in Missouri and across the country, and you’ll find these distinctive-looking fungi growing in patches. To learn more about more about morels in Missouri, check out the Missouri Department of Conservation’s page on Munchable Morels.
Are you a lucky morel hunter and need a new recipe? We’ve got you covered. We found a decadent recipe in Virginia Campbell”s cookbook for Stewed Mushrooms. (And we mean decadent: cream, an egg-sized slab of butter and eggs. Holy cholesterol, Batman!)
Virginia’s cookbook is significant for a number of reasons, but primarily because it is so old and it’s in such good shape. Dating to the 1840s, this was her personal, hand-written cookbook that contains recipes that were regularly prepared by the cook in our kitchen. You’ll notice that Virginia’s recipes do not have the same format we’re used to (the list of ingredients on top, directions underneath); they read more like short narratives. Our modern palates consider a dish of stewed mushrooms fairly normal, but we have recipes for calves feet (and jelly!), boiled turkey, cough medicine and terrapin stew. The Campbells also ate things we still eat regularly, including donuts, macaroni and cheese, and fried chicken, but after flipping through the cookbook, you get a glimpse of how different culinary life — and life in general — was in the second half of the nineteenth century. As time goes on, we’ll share many more of her recipes with you, but without further ado, here’s an image of her recipe:
The transcription with original punctuation and spelling:
Take a qt of fresh Mushrooms, peel them and cut off the stems, season them
with Pepper and Salt. Put them in a saucepan or skillet, with a lump of
fresh Butter the size of an Egg, and sufficient Cream or rich Milk to cover
them. Put on the lid of the pan, and stew the Mushrooms about a 1/4 of an
hour, keeping them well covered, or the flavors will evaporate. When you take them
off the fire have ready 1 or 2 well beaten Eggs. Stir the eggs gradually into the stew,
and send them to table in a covered dish.
This sounds pretty tasty, but if you would rather stick with a recipe that has more exact measurements, give this one a shot. Enjoy!