Truffles are no doubt exquisite to eat and enjoy, but how much do we really know about them? Thanks to Daniel Wissman of Belbosco Truffles, we now know all about truffles, the amazing and decadent ingredient. Believe it or not, the truffle is a fungus, just like a mushroom. In fact, truffles are a rare mushroom/fungus that has certain, very specific conditions for reproducing and being cultivated.
Daniel became fascinated with truffles when he decided to relocate near Florence in 1994 in order to study the visual art, architecture (as visual art), history and contemporary culture of Italy. After a visit to the regions around the cities of Siena, in Tuscany, Norcia, in southern Umbria, and, Alba, in Piedmont, Daniel tasted for the first time the “tartufo nero” and the “tartufo bianco,” or, the black truffle and the white truffle. He knew then that he wanted to devote his energies to discovering as much as possible about this rare and delicious gastronomic delicacy. When Daniel recently returned to the United States in 2012, he founded Belbosco Truffles, specializes in sourcing the very best truffles from Italy, France and elsewhere.
Read more below for lots of truffle tips, tricks, and facts from Belbosco Truffles!
What Are Truffles?
Truffles part of the larger taxonomical genus of “tubers”. Truffles rely upon animals which eat them to reproduce. These animals injest the flesh of the truffle and distribute the truffle spores. Truffles have an unique, symbiotic, relationship with the roots of their “host” trees, such as the oak and hazelnut tree. The truffle and its host tree create a nutrient exchange with one another which allows both to grow. The truffle takes necessary sugars from the roots of its nearby host tree—sugars which it cannot obtain by itself because it does not undergo photosynthesis. Likewise, the host tree obtains necessary nutrients from the soil through the truffle. Truffles are rich in proteins and minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium.
How Can You Find Truffles?
The truffle is almost impossible to detect underground via the human olfactory sense. Because of this, pigs, which have a highly developed sense of smell, had been traditionally used to locate the truffle. Pigs though generally eat truffles. Therefore, in the past 50 years or so, dogs which have a highly acute olfactory sense have been trained to locate the truffle. The pungent aroma of truffles comes from their spores which are protected underground from the elements of the wind and the sun.
The white Pico truffle is the most expensive and rarest variety of truffle and it ONLY grows in the region around Alba Italy (Piedmont) and in parts of Croatia. The season for the white Pico truffle begins at the end of September and extends through the first of February.
Tips For Buying Truffles #1: Appearance
White and black truffles are the most popular varieties. The popular summer and winter truffles – also known as the nutmeg truffle – are actually black truffles. They have a black, nubby surface but are lighter inside. White truffles
Tips For Buying Truffles #2: Aroma
White truffles have a heady aroma of honey, hay, garlic with an earthy note. Heat destroys the odour, meaning white truffles are always shaved finely over the finished dish and never cooked. Black truffles have a less pungent aroma than their white cousins, recalling mushrooms, musk and cocoa. If you detect a whiff of ammonia, leave the truffles well alone. If you can’t smell anything, they’re unlikely to be ripe yet.
Tips For Buying Truffles #3: Texture
Fresh, ripe truffles are firm and smooth. If a white truffle is hard or rubbery, it’s not fresh. Black truffles have firmer consistency, especially when kept refrigerated. Any soft areas can be removed with a sharp knife.
How To Store Truffles
They may be wrapped individually or they can be wrapped collectively in paper towels or cheesecloth and placed in mason jars. The jar or jars should be immediately placed in normal refrigeration temperature (around 40 degrees Fahrenheit). Multiple truffles can be stored in one mason jar. We recommend that you do NOT
We also suggest that you do not completely close the jar in order to allow air to circulate within. The natural moisture contained in the truffles needs to escape from the jar in order to prevent prolonged water condensation on the skin of the truffles which can result in spoilage. The paper towels or cheesecloth dressing should be replaced around every twelve hours or when very damp. Try also placing some raw eggs in the mason jar with the truffles. The truffles will impart their delicious aromas and flavors to the egg yolk and whites.
Cooking With Truffles
Truffle tastes and aromas generally assume the most prominent role in any recipe, so, planning and executing the use of truffles in cooking must be done with care and foresight. Ingredients should be chosen which complement the vibrant and sensuous characteristics of the truffle. Ingredients and spices which may conflict or overpower the very particular aromas and tastes of the truffle should be avoided.
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Photos and information courtesy of Belbosco Truffles.