Truffles of Black & White
Black Pearls and White Diamonds (Truffles)
“Those who wish to lead a virtuous life should abstain from truffles.” – An Italian proverb
Ancient Greeks and Romans discovered truffles approximately 2000 years ago. And since they were found in great abundance at that time they were eaten more like vegetables. Truffles today, due to their rarity, have become one of the most extravagant and most highly priced foods per pound second only to saffron.
How and Where to Find the Elusive Truffle
Truffles are not commercially grown but are found by truffle hunters who for the most part use trained dogs to smell and dig them out of the ground. Pigs are sometimes used to find the elusive truffle but trained dogs are the most commonly used. Truffles grow as a fungus 3 to 12 inches under the ground and usually at the base and around the roots of oak, hazelnut and elm trees. Usually a stunted or abnormally shaped tree is an indication that truffles may be present.
There have been about 90 or so truffle varieties that have been identified so far. Most of them have been discovered in the northwestern part of the United States. On occasion they’ve been found in other parts of the country too. From all the varieties of truffles that have been found only three are recognized as the most aromatic and flavorful. They are from Italy, France, and Spain. The Chinese have found truffles along the Himalayan range and some have also been found in New Zealand’s northern island.
What Are White Diamonds and How Are They Used?
The most prized and most expensive truffles are the white truffles or “white diamonds.” These little gems are found in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, and were not discovered until some 200 years ago. They mature and are hunted in October through December. Generally they are a golden color on the outside with a tan or cream-colored flesh.
Experts have been trying to describe the delicate taste and the aroma of truffles for years. And although I’ll tell you what the experts are saying, they will also agree that the heavenly or earthly aroma for that matter is still not descriptive enough. The experts claim that they have a distinctively pungent, strongly musky perfume, with a light garlicky aroma. The white truffle is never cooked. It is always consumed raw. Typically white truffles are shaved paper-thin on pasta dishes, risottos, meats and salads.
What Are Black Pearls and How Are They Used?
Black winter truffles also known as Perigord truffles come from Italy, France and Spain. The most well known come from France and named after the region in which they are hunted therefore the name Perigord. These “black pearls” mature from November through March and are more delicate in aroma than the white truffle. They’re black and dimpled on the outside like a golf ball and gray colored on the inside. Black truffles unlike white truffles gain a more enhanced flavor when cooked. Typically black truffles are used in pasta sauces, eggs, potatoes, rice, vegetables, meat and some fish dishes.
Fresh black summer truffles are available from June until November and are not as dark as the winter variety and sometimes more of a dark brown color. Generally summer truffles are 1/3 the price of winter truffles and the aroma is milder. The summer truffle is used in the same way that the winter truffles are used. Even though the black winter and summer truffles are best when cooked. I’ve listed some suggestions that will help you in selecting, and enjoying these gastronomically delicious tubers with the maximum amount of flavor.
Truffle Tips and Trivia:
- Fresh truffles are the best but must be purchased and used within two or three days.
- Fresh truffles should be firm, round and have a musky earthy aroma.
- Fresh truffles can be stored in paper towels in the refrigerator for up to three days.
- Flash frozen truffles are the next best choice.
- Preserved truffles in jars are superior in flavor to canned truffles.
- Only buy fresh or frozen truffles from a reputable supplier.
- Truffle sauce is an inexpensive way to enjoy real truffle flavor.
- Truffle oil is an essence or infusion of flavor and is powerful, a few drops are great on salads orpasta..
- Fresh truffles work best when coupled with fats such as oil, butter, cream or by infusion in a sauce at the end of the cooking process.
- Truffles can be enclosed in puff pastry, brioche, bread, or in slivers under the skin of poultry and game birds.
- Save the peelings from fresh truffles. They can be minced and added to what every you are making.
- If fresh truffles are not being used immediately place them in a mason jar with a pound of butter, cap and refrigerate.
- Seal truffles in a plastic bag with eggs in the shell. The aroma of truffle will permeate the butter and the eggs. The butter can then be used as a topping for mashed potatoes, vegetables, and to finish sauces. The eggs will make exceptional omelets, and soufflés.
- Fresh or preserved truffles should not be cooked longer than ten to fifteen minutes or the flavor will be lost.
Please be sure to try our fabulous recipes and view our exquisite line of truffle products. We’ve imported some of the finest white truffle paste, white truffle oil, sliced black summer truffles in oil, and an earthy truffle butter that is beyond compare.