In the wake of my modest-but-exciting success with hunting morel mushrooms this year, I’ve had a gnawing hunger for more morels. Sadly, the season is over, something reinforced to me two weekends ago when I saw a single wizened, decaying morel on the side of a trail. Still, I wanted to ride that mushroom high again.
|Morel Trees Dot the Ground Pork Landscape|
At the beginning of the year, I sampled some amazing morel-studded pork liverwurst made from the liver of my friend Jim’s pigs, along with his own dried morels he foraged last season. The taste of the morels was amazing and perfectly stood up to the rich, minerally taste of the liver.
While my freezer was short on pork liver, I did have plenty of pork, plus some (sadly purchased) dried morels. This inspired me to make a morel kielbasa. See photos of Jim’s wurst-making, I was surprised that Jim added the morels dry to the forcemeat mixture. When conventionally using dried morels, I would reconstitute them in hot water, then use the soaking liquid to create a sauce for the dish.
|Morel-Studded Kielbasa Before Smoking|
My thought is that adding the mushrooms dry to the raw meat helps to capture all the morel flavor in the wurst. But by putting the mushrooms in dry they get evenly mixed with the meat in the grinding phase, and then slowly reconstitute by pulling moisture from the meat.
I followed this example, adding just over an ounce of dried morels to 7 lbs pork shoulder, along with white pepper, thyme, and a bit of garlic. From there it was a straightforward kielbasa recipe: grinding and chilling the meat, casing it into 36-38 mm pork casings, then letting it dry overnight before smoking.
Hot from the smoker, the kielbasa was delicious! But then, it’s hard to beat the taste of anything fresh from the smoker. I didn’t get much morel flavor, but the smoke was so intense that I wasn’t worried. The next day I sautéed a ring of kielbasa for dinner, but still wasn’t getting that rich, earthy morel hit to my palate. The smoke flavor was milder, but the mushroom taste just seemed to be a muted accent.
Today I went a very different route and poached one of the links, as I’ve been thinking the kielbasa meat mixture might be too dry? If you’ve ever ground up liver, you know it’s a wet, sqooshy meat. The additional liquid from the liver may have helped the morels to reconstitute a bit more and boost the flavor.
Unfortunately poaching did not help the kielbasa. Don’t get me wrong – it’s delicious, but I would never guess there were morels in there. Perhaps the issue is that many people don’t buy morels in the grocery store? I could have bought old stock that had faded in flavor. I’m still not sure…I’d like to try this again, but I’ll probably start with a much smaller test batch.