One of her stories is about foraging for morels. She mentions in the book that the foragers in her area recommended that she give the mushrooms a brief soak in salt water before cooking. That made me stop and think. Against conventional wisdom, Alex and I always wash our mushrooms. We believe that worms and dirt are not a happy addition to any plate and find that a warm water rinse (or three) followed by air drying on a rack has beneficial effects on almost all wild mushrooms. The salt water soak was something else entirely. I shared that particular passage with Alex and he was equally intrigued. We decided to try it the next time we got our hands on some morels.
As luck would have it, just a few days after we returned to New York we purchased some beautiful morels from Tyler's traveling van and had the opportunity to put the salt water bath to the test. Barbara was somewhat vague as to her particular method for soaking the morels. We decided that a ten minute soak in a 2% brine would extract any critters from the various nooks and crannies with the added benefit of seasoning the mushrooms during the process. We soaked them for ten minutes with the occasional swish and stir, gave them a quick rinse, patted them dry, and cooked them gently in just olive oil until they were just tender. No additional salt was needed.
How did they taste? They were seasoned throughout with a nice depth of flavor. They seemed somehow earthier and mushroom-ier than their more traditionally cleaned counterparts. The simple cooking in olive oil made them very versatile. We actually finished them with a vaudovan consomme, although there were any number of other paths available to us. We think that brining morels definitely works. We'll have to experiment with other mushrooms and see if they do equally well.