Truffles 101

Truffles 101

March 27, 2020

What are truffles?

Truffles, black or white, are a fungus that grows underground. They are among the most expensive and appreciated delicacies, known also as black diamonds.

They are difficult to grow, hard to find in the wild, in decline because of climate change and habitat loss, and therefore in high demand. There are lots of species, but the most valuable ones are those powerfully flavorful like the Tuber Magnatum Pico, the Italian White Truffle, and the Tuber Melanosporum, the Périgord truffle.

In the future: Black winter truffles are not planted and producing successfully in Australia and New Zealand; starting quite well in Chili too, offering the Northern Hemisphere, Winter truffles in the middle of our summer! Emerging is the production in the USA, we have planted some inoculated trees of winter truffles in North Carolina, Northern California and Oregon. The production should follow within the next couple of years, as it takes about 7 years to start producing if the tree produces.

How truffles are “hunted”?

Interesting is the way they are “hunted”. Because it is really a hunt! They are hunted with dogs. The smell of the mature truffle attracts the dog. When the spores of the truffle mature, the fungus produces aromatic compounds that attract the dog. The animals dig up the truffle, and the truffle spores become dispersed.

Truffle types

There are different types of truffles but only 10 have culinary value, and they vary in flavor and intensity. Usually, the producers label their truffle products with the Latin binomials. Here is an informative sheet:

Tuber Magnatum Pico, the White Alba Truffle: most expensive, powerfully tasty

Tuber Melanosporum, the Périgord truffle or black truffle: also powerfully tasty

Tuber uncinatum, the Burgundy truffle: mild and delicate

Tuber Aestivum, the black summer truffle: less refined, woody flavor, hazelnut

Tuber Sinensis, Tuber Indicum, Tuber Himalayensis, the Chinese truffles: weak truffle flavor

Tuber Brumale, the musky truffle: nasty tasting

Tuber Borchii or Biancetto: Spring White Truffle, that has nothing to do with the Winter White Truffle, they have garlic taste and smell.

Many descriptions have been used trying to accurately describe the flavor: mold, garlic, soil, onions without heat, meat, sweet body odor — but those descriptors are beside the point. Truffles are irresistible because their aroma is composed of chemicals that mimic mammalian reproductive pheromones.

Where do truffles come from?

Domestic truffles are primarily harvested for the local market and mostly on the West Coast. There are a few species of Oregon truffles (white, black, and brown), and the Pecan truffle, which is found in the southern and eastern half of the United States. They are all tasty.

But if you want to enjoy the tasty fresh European truffles (Italian, Spanish and French truffles), specialists recommend going where they come from, Italian Alba truffle fair in October and November, or the Lalbenque truffle market in Southwest France in December and January. Or to The Truffle Masters last Monday of January in Houston, Texas.

How to store truffles?

Truffles are very perishable and should be stored in the refrigerator. It's very important to make sure no moisture can get in. You can wrap it in absorbent paper, cotton cloth, and place in a glass jar or truffle container in the lower shelves of the refrigerator. You can also store them in rice, but the rice will draw the moisture out of the truffle and therefore shortened its life.

Culinary uses

Truffles are suitable for any kind of food, in sauces or raw slices with a pleasant taste and attractive and decorative appearance.

It is marvelous how many recipes you may enjoy:

  • as an appetizer, butter spreads or oiled bruschetta, both decorated with slices of truffles and a little salt
  • in pasta or rice, season with oil or sauce garnished with slices of truffles
  • with meat, black truffle slices over the meat already cooked or put the meat with the truffle sauce
  • In delicious omelets, mix slices of fresh truffle with beaten eggs, before, store your truffles with your eggs in a tight jar, in the fridge for a couple of days, the porous shell of the egg will absorb the flavor of the truffles. It's called double-dipping
  • And surprisingly even in desserts like creams, tiramisu, and ice cream

Or you may use truffle butter!

But don’t forget! Before using fresh truffles, they should be washed under a jet of water with a brush to remove traces of dirt. We recommend that you wash only the amount of truffles you are going to use because once washed, they will deteriorate faster.

Whole frozen truffles, on the other hand, are sliced truffles or sliced over the dishes without being thawed beforehand.

The life of the truffle depends on its maturity at the time of purchase, ranging from 7-12 days.

Now, who's hungry?