What are Truffles?
Known as the most luxurious item in the gastronomy world, truffles are the ingredient to make a statement both in style and taste. Truffles are a type of mushroom. To be more precise, they are the spore-producing parts of a fungus that can be eaten, originating from the Tuberaceae family.
What’s interesting about these rare commodities is they are only available for a short window at the beginning of the year, typically for about 4 months and because they don’t keep well, it makes them even harder to get hold of.
Additionally, the beloved chocolate truffle is named after the truffles we’re talking about today. Similar in shape, but drastically different in every other way. Truffles are smaller than a fist, and larger than a brazil nut, and should be at the top of any foodie’s tasting list.
What are the Different Kinds of Truffles?
There are a few kinds of truffles to be aware of, from the white and black truffles to the more niche types including garlic, whitish, burgundy, and pine.
In reality, these special types are just sub-categories of the major white and black ones. Found in France and Italy, these truffles come with an extremely pungent smell that can put eaters off.
However, the strong earthy fragrance soon grows on you once you taste the delicious truffle flavor. A quick way to differentiate between the black and white colorings is black is usually added to cooked dishes due to its stronger taste, whereas white can be eaten without cooking due to its more scented taste.
Black Perigold Winter Truffles
Fresh black winter truffles can be found in France and Italy between February and April. Also known as Perigord truffles, these wild and rare truffles are known for their intense aroma that is highly prized by the world’s finest chefs.
These are truly some of the most beautiful edible gifts from nature, with highly intense and earthy flavors of oak, musk, and wood. The firm flesh presents itself in beautiful hues from deep gray to chocolate browns with marbling from ivory to gold.
The Italian White (Alba) Truffle
Its famous counterpart is the white truffle (Tuber magnatum) and is mostly discovered in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. However, they have also on occasion, to the delight of its citizens, been found in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and France.
In recent years, developers have been working on ways to cultivate these truffles at different locations with a fair amount of success.
Why are Truffles So Rare?
The reason truffles are so rare is mainly due to the seasonality of the product. Truffles are only available to be harvested from February to April each year, making the harvesting season very short. Additionally, truffles do not grow above the ground meaning they are difficult to find and harvest.
Living under the ground, around the roots of trees, in forests with a lot of coverage and well-watered grounds, means these delights are concealed from humans. Many years ago, foresters realized they would need the assistance of those with much better senses than them. Thus they called upon the services of sniffing pigs, who could easily locate the pungent-smelling heavenly food.
However, these pigs soon became dogs, as the hunters realized the pigs enjoyed eating the truffles as much as their customers did. Sniffing dogs were also much easier to train, and could do specific tasks. Once these truffles were located in the forest, under hazel, oak, or pine trees, they were ready to be harvested.
Careful excavation is always required to ensure no truffles are damaged, thus also adding to the time and costs of procuring them.
However, in recent years, French truffles come increasingly from orchards which are inoculated with the spores of the truffle fungus during plantation. Almost 80% of all french truffles are now sourced from such a location.
What Do Truffles Taste Like?
Depending on where they are sourced, truffles from different countries and even different regions can result in a different flavor. A big contributing factor for this is the soil in which they were grown or the trees they grew next to.
Which year they were harvested can also change the taste, due to rainfall and other environmental factors playing a role.
Two major factors affect how a truffle might taste; the aroma and the flavor.
For many, the aroma is often overpowering and can put them off before even sampling the truffle. However, its aroma is considered one of the best parts for many truffle lovers across the world. The scent of shaven truffle can elevate many dishes, adding a truly unique earthy smell to the food.
In regards to flavor, this does change from variety to variety, however, most do feature the same earthy flavor but tinged with a nutty, oaky, and mushroom-like flavor. People even go as far as to suggest the black truffle has a sweeter note, versus the more garlicky element to the white variety.
Why Are Truffles So Expensive?
When compared pound-per-pound, truffles come out as one of the most costly luxury foods in the world. The reason for this is mostly the same as what makes them rare. As a product that cannot be manufactured in high volumes, or accessed all the time, the price is driven through the roof by the consumer demand for them.
As prized, and very sought-after items, which do not last very long, the window for procurement and sale is small and therefore very costly to deliver on. Some even rarer varieties of truffles can sell for more than $2000 per pound. Those who don’t love the taste, will probably never understand why anyone might pay so much for this delicacy.
What Can I Make With Truffles?
Truffles can be a fantastic ingredient to several dishes as a way of elevating the experience. However, as the flavors are strong and can fade if cooked incorrectly, most truffles lovers will consume them raw. Best served over dishes such as salads, scrambled eggs, or pasta dishes.
However, in some situations, such as within pasta sauces or used in the creation of truffle butter, truffle shavings can be added to the sauce during cooking to add a truly unique tang to it.
Where Can I Buy Truffles?
Few retailers can provide high-quality truffles, however, here at Kolikof Caviar and Gourmet, we are pleased to be able to offer this rare and well-sought after product. Discover our expansive catalog of seasonal truffles!