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GASTRONOMY

Connoisseur’s Guide to Truffles

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Written by Aksel Ritenis

umbria-truffles_4Truffles grow on the roots of truffle oaks, often less than 30 cm below the surface. To date, no one has been able to cultivate truffles: they grow randomly in certain regions (44 – 46 degrees north latitude). The more truffle oak seedlings are planted, the more chances exist for harvesting some.

Since truffles cannot be seen, specially trained sows and dogs are employed to find the elusive tubers, Sows love to eat them and have a keen sense of smell, but because of their size, transportation tends to be cumbersome, also once they start digging, it is difficult to stop them to retrieve the truffle. Many “hunters” prefer specially trained dogs that are easier to control.

The size of the truffle varies considerably ranging from 10 grams (1/3 oz) to 100 grams (3 ½ oz). Large truffles cost more because they are rare. Truffle oaks thrive on soil rich in limestone, with good drainage.

Truffles are generally used in goose liver pates, in sauces, omelettes, scrambled eggs, compound butters, and baked in puff pastry.

Connoisseurs consider truffles as aphrodisiac, but there is no scientific evidence to this claim.

Once unearthed, truffle’s can be stored well packaged in a cool, damp place for months. They can also be frozen, although after thawing, texturally the quality becomes unacceptably soft and mushy.

umbria-truffles_3Black truffles are highly aromatic, pungent and will even penetrate eggs stored next to them, changing their taste.

Italians consider the white truffle (tuber magnatum) to be superior in taste to tuber melonosporum (black truffle). White truffles are abundant in Alba and Monferrato, Piedmont, and around Parma, Modena and Bologna in Emilia Romagna. They have a penetrating, faintly garlicky aroma, with an intense flavour. Generally, aficionados serve it in paper thin slices on risottos, pastas, meats, egg dishes and cheese fondues. While white truffles may be eaten raw, black truffles must be cooked.

Imitation truffles consist of egg white, truffle juice and seasonings. Both their texture and taste have no resemblance to the real truffle, except for colour. Because black truffles are in such high demand, many fraudulent dealers buy inferior truffles like fungi, colour them and sell at exorbitant prices. Chinese truffles look like black French truffles, and some dealers are known to colour and sell them for authentic. Generally they buy the Chinese truffle for $30 a kilogram and after colouring sell it whatever the going market is.

True truffles must be purchased from reliable dealers with established reputations.

Material re-published from www.foodreference.com

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Aksel Ritenis

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