Hello my dear readers,
We have seen what is truffle and a few varieties of this precious ingredient.
Now let’s see truffle’s journey from the earth to the table.
Italy is the country that offers most of the truffle consumed in the world, especially the precious ones, both white and black.
The harvest of truffles in nature does not have a precise period, but varies greatly depending on the species: some types are harvested between September and November, others in April.
Dogs that are trained for years to smell their scent are used to search for truffles: this is because the truffle, when it reaches maturity, exploits the animals’ sense of smell. It develops a typical intense and penetrating odour that attracts some of them who are greedy like dogs, pigs, wild boars, foxes, badgers, dormice, hedgehogs. These animals, digging to find them and eat them, spread their spores and therefore allow their reproduction.
In its spontaneous state, a wooded tree can produce an average of 5 to 9 ounces of truffle. Only in exceptional cases can higher quantities of truffles or very large ones be found. It makes a good newspaper headlines when a truffle that exceeds one kilogram is found.
Accompanied by your best fried, the dog, walking among oaks, hazels, elms, chestnuts, pines, away from the city and the inhabited cities, with a lot of patience, enjoying the beautiful nature, you may also find one of the most particular, mysterious and precious product that the earth can offer: the truffle.
Several countries organise also the truffle hunting.
The ideal hours to go out hunting for truffles are at dawn during the summer, given that with strong heat the dog gets tired very easily. In winter, on the contrary, it is preferred to go out in the hottest hours, when the warmth warms the ground and allows the scent of the truffle to emerge.
How to preserve truffles?
For its conservation, it is advisable to wrap it in absorbent paper, place it inside a plastic or glass container and place it in the lower part of the refrigerator (0/4°C) up to a maximum of 2/3 days.
If you want to use it beyond this time, I recommend freezing it.
How to recognise a good quality truffle?
If you are lucky enough to be able to buy the fresh truffles, knowing how to recognize a good quality product is essential, especially in relation to costs but also to health benefits.
But how to recognize the fresh truffle and its quality?
It can be said that the sensory analysis of the truffle involves 4 senses: the sense of smell, touch, sight and, in the end, taste.
By following some small and simple precautions, anyone is able to recognize a good fresh truffle.Photo credit: Pixabay
Holding a truffle in hand, the first almost automatic action is to bring the product to the nose, to test its intensity with the smell. It is a particular experience, because regardless of the variety you are struck by an odor similar to a cross between musk and gaseous (methane type), reminiscent of hay and chestnut. The fragrance allows to recognize the degree of maturity. If this is strong, almost aggressive, the truffle is certainly ripe. But it can take on different connotations depending on the variety.
The texture to the touch
After the sense of smell, you must rely on touch and appearance to judge a good truffle. Between one variety and another there are characteristics that can be felt under the fingertips such as, for example, the different roughness of the external skin. Compactness is always essential. The truffle always has a good consistency and is never soft.
What is perceived by touch and smell must always be associated with a visual examination of form and color. Truffles come from the subsoil: it is therefore normal that as soon as they are collected they are dirty and encrusted with earth. Even at the time of purchase, the truffle retains parts of the skin covered with earth. This circumstance is not a negative or negligent aspect of the seller, but it is a technique for keeping it better and longer.
Beware of “scams”: the aroma of artificial truffle
Unfortunately, just as there are chemically reproduced aromas of many foods, truffles also have their own. It is a bis-methylthiomethane based synthetic product that does not contain truffles at all, it is a derivative of petroleum. This “truffle aroma” can be found in olive oils and is also often added to sauces with pieces of truffle.
If you want to be sure of buying a naturally derived product, you need to pay close attention to the label. If you read the wording “aroma”, you are in the presence of bis-methylthiomethane. When only the name truffle appears on the label or “natural aroma” is specified, you can rest assured that you have purchased a package based on real truffle.
Truffle in the kitchen
Truffle is an ingredient that is used in the kitchen to flavour first and second courses, and a very small quantity is enough to flavour sufficiently the courses.
Clearly, in order not to spoil it, we must use it well, so let’s see how to use the truffle in the kitchen.
First of all, keep in mind that the truffle can be used in preparations both freshly picked and after being frozen (whole or sliced), or preserved in other ways, such as the reduction in puree or in the form of sauce, oil or flour.
When eaten fresh, the truffle after having been carefully cleaned and brushed to remove all traces of soil is clearly richer in flavour, it is perfect to use it grated or flaked on a plate of porcini mushroom pasta, but also served together with meat and fish, perhaps seasoned with melted butter or hot bechamel.
The truffle that has been frozen, preferably sliced , will probably have lost some of its properties, especially if it has not been frozen immediately. In this case they can also be used grated on the pasta but maybe with a more delicate sauce so that the truffle can be more present. You can use for example a sauce with a little butter, simple oil or cooking cream.
The truffle that has been frozen can also be used to enrich and flavour salads or to accompany cold cuts and cheeses, some people also use it on pizza.
In the event that the truffle is preserved in oil, it can be used in small pieces on bruschetta and even the oil where it was contained, now full of flavour, should not be wasted, but used to season pasta, main courses or bread.
If the truffle has been reduced to sauce or puree instead, it can be used to stuff delicious appetizers and tasty canapes.
From seasonings to fillings, from cheeses to vegetable preserves, from sausages to baked goods, even in very small quantities, the truffle is able to enrich the flavor of a food in an incomparable way.
The versatility of this ingredient is amazing: for its unmistakable flavours, its intense and penetrating aromas, it is able to support any combination, even with fish or liqueurs.
In relation to the dish you want to prepare, you should choose between white and black truffles. Theoretically, white is more suitable for raw consumption, simply grated on the plate, preferably with soft flavors, such as homemade pasta, a piece of meat or a white risotto with butter.
Black, on the other hand, gives its best in cooking, but not too intense. It gives off its aroma well, for example in risottos, fillings, meatballs, soufflés, and pates.
We have learned to appreciate the black and white truffle for its flavour, its exceptional aroma, and the unique character it adds to each ingredient it accompanies.
But did you know that besides being incredibly good it is also very healthy? Truffle is in fact rich in antioxidants, which fight aging and counteract free radicals.
It has elasticizing properties because it promotes collagen production and consumed in a moderate way it promotes digestion.
Has only 31 Kcal per 100 grams and is considered a food with aphrodisiac properties.
And speaking of nutrition, the problem that emerges with the most recurrence is the cardiovascular one, linked to fats and cholesterol often contained in the dishes considered tastiest. Well the truffle is cholesterol-free and is an excellent source of magnesium. The calcium that contains benefits bones and teeth, while potassium stimulates the kidneys to eliminate toxic substances from the body.
It contains many proteins and vitamins, making it ideal also for low calorie diets.
In addition to the beneficial effects, the truffle also has some contraindications, especially if consumed very frequently.
Here are what they are:
- Hyperuricemia – those suffering from gout must avoid the consumption of truffles because they increase the production of further uric acid and urea, thus worsening the disease.
- Kidney stones – the increase in urea can create kidney overload problems and promote the onset of kidney colic.
- Excessive consumption can pose a potential danger to the liver and stomach.
- It is good to avoid eating raw truffles in pregnancy. Its contact with the ground, in fact, means that this can be contaminated by toxplasma, a micro-organism capable of altering the normal development of the fetus. Its cooking, on the other hand, eliminates this danger.
Truffles grow spontaneously next to some trees, but they can also be grown. In Italy, truffle growing is a significant entrepreneurial reality, which over the years has achieved concrete economic and production results. But it is an investment that requires long waits, even 10-15 years, and very accurate assessments on the preparation of the area in which to plant a “truffle hunter”.
The reason for the complexity lies precisely in the particularity of the mechanism of development of the truffle: the right conditions must be verified to obtain the relationship of symbiosis between the two living organisms and the ideal environmental situations.
How about you?