TRUFFLE FROM A TO Z: 26 THINGS TO KNOW
What is truffle? And where does it come from? 26 interesting facts and figures about the most valued and penetrating odored fungus.
Alba. This town in Piedmont (Italy) is the world capital of truffles and every year it hosts the International White Truffle Fair of Alba.
Black. Black truffles, Tubermelanosporum, also known as Périgord – after the French region they first came from – are second only to white truffles in terms of value and grow in close harmony with oak and hazelnut trees.
"Città del Tartufo". The Association of the "città del Tartufo" groups about 50 Italian towns related with truffle culture with the aim of promoting the delicacy.
Dogs & Pigs. Truffle hunting used to be entrusted to young hogs but they are far too fond of this food. Pigs are used in some areas of France, too, but in Italy dogs are preferred. Which breed is the most effective? Mongrels! But of course, they have to be perfectly trained. At Roddi, near Alba, there is also a truffle dog university since1880.
Eggs. The best pairing of all to enjoy truffles. Fried eggs topped with shaved truffle is a dish that has been signed by generations of chefs. However, few people know that if you store eggs – or indeed any other fatty food, from butter to cream, fatty cheeses, and oil – in a hermetic box with truffle, they will absorb its flavor without affecting the truffle itself.
Fungus. Truffle is the fruiting body of a subterranean fungus of the genus Tuber, to which many other species belong.
Gastronomy Nobel. In 2017 the Grand Prix de l’Art de la Cuisine of the Académie Internationale de la Gastronomie was awarded to Enrico Crippa, 3-starred chef of Piazza Duomo in Alba and an ambassador for white truffle in the world.
Hunt. If you want to enjoy an amazing experience, you can contact several venues especially in the center of Italy where you can go hunting truffles with the help of some trained dogs. And there are also restaurants that can cook your harvest for you.
Improper. There are some natural defects that can make a truffle unsuitable: an insufficient level of maturity, the presence of mycosis, a rubbery texture or incompleteness. Then, look out for fraudulent practices like holes filled with soil or maize flour used to alter the color.
Just truffle. Going under the name of Tartufi&Friends this is the only truffle theme-based restaurant in the world. Set up by an Italian businessman, it has venues in Milan, London, Dubai, and Frankfurt.
Keep cool! The million dollar question is: what’s the best way to store white truffle? First of all, keep it fresh using a cool box to carry it in. And leave some soil attached (which will then be removed using a brush with medium-soft bristles), keep in a fridge at 3° or 4°C wrapped in absorbent kitchen paper and placed inside a hermetic box until you consume it.
Langhe. This area of the Italian region Piedmont is considered the world capital of truffles and the traditional Italian trifulau – truffle searchers and custodians of its secrets.
Museum. A truffle museum is being planned and in search of sponsors in the area of Alba. Maybe it won't be the first in the world, but what would make it unique is the location, coupled with the fact that it will be a museum whose area of influence goes from Langa to Roero, the cradle of truffles.
Norcia. This is the land of the “black diamond”, the most excellent expression of Italian black truffle, to be found in the region of Umbria.
Odor. Why do truffles emanate that penetrating and extremely costly odor? It's due to attract wild boars and to reproduce. Boars, or other wild animals such as foxes and badgers, dig into the soil to hunt them out and, in doing so, the spores of the truffle are spread out. And this guarantees the survival of the species.
Plantation. Truffle plantations? Yes, they really do exist. Truffles started to be cultivated at the end of the 18th Century in France, where most of the plantations are nowadays located. In Great Britain, the business was set up in 2015 by Paul Thomas, a young biologist with a passion for truffles. United States, Chile, New Zealand, and South Africa are the countries where truffle plantations are now growing extensively.
Quick truffle. “A hint of truffle”: this is what McDonald’s Australia has decided to add to its Angus cheeseburger. In the last years, Australia has become the world’s fourth largest producer of truffles.
Record. Truffle prices continue to make new records: the latest edition of the International White Truffle Auction in Alba, in autumn 2017, paid 75,000 euros for a well-rounded truffle weighing 850 grams.
Summer. Summer truffles, Tuberaestivum, grow in the European summer and have a black knobbly surface, dirty yellow or hazelnut colored flesh (which also describes their aroma) and are less expensive.
Terfez. These are the so-called “desert truffles”, belonging to the family of Terfeziaceae, which grow in desert or semi-desert areas looking out onto the Mediterranean sea, on the Arabian peninsula but also in China. They have neither the flavor nor the aroma of European truffles, but they are used as a vehicle of flavor since they can absorb any tastes they come into contact with. There is also an Australian desert truffle called Choiromycesaboriginum.
UNESCO. On 27 March 2017, Italy's UNESCO Committee unanimously decided to apply for UNESCO intangible world heritage status for Italy’s truffle culture. The verdict has not been out yet.
Vodka. Vodka with truffle, Black Moth Vodka, is a spirit with no synthetic aroma added but it is infused with real black truffle. It is not just a cocktail: it is excellent when used in cooking, in a risotto for example.
White. It grows at the foot of oaks, hazelnut trees, poplars, and beeches and yields its fruit in autumn. White truffles or TuberMagnatus are cream, brown or marbled white in color and can grow up to 12 cm in diameter, even though they are normally much smaller. The Pico variety comes from Alba and is the last word in truffles.
Xmas. Truffle is also the name given to a type of chocolate confectionary, that are perfect to be served during parties or Holidays dinner especially at Christmas. If you're looking for a delicious dessert, take inspiration by Don Gennaro on Jamie's Oliver's Food Tube channel for a super easy chocolate truffle recipe and comes with three different suggestions on how to serve them.
Yet raw. White truffle? Strictly raw. What about black truffles? They may be cooked but it would be better not to exceed 40°C.
Zeus. In ancient times, truffles were believed to spring out from a lightning bolt hurled by Zeus, the king of the Gods, against an oak tree. Zeus was renowned for his divine sexual activity, hence the legend surrounding truffles and their aphrodisiac powers.
...and if you're looking for an amazing fine dining recipe to try with truffles take a look at this delicious recipe for Tortelloni with pumpkin, ricotta and black truffle by chef Dario Ranza.