Truffles, those funky and flavourful funghi that are typically found underground near the roots of trees by specially trained dogs, are beloved by foodies the world over.
But what should you know about truffles?
When you hear the word “truffle,” it could refer to either a black or a white truffle, or any version of the two. Both varieties have a lot of similarities and differences, and each one does something different when it comes to cooking.
So how can you know which one is right for you and your needs?
If you’re spending a lot of money trying a truffle for the first time, it’s a good idea to understand just what you’re buying.
- Earthy flavour that sometimes tastes like chocolate or red wine.
- Smell like dirt, seafood, and sometimes chocolate.
- Can be cheaper than white truffles and come in a variety of more affordable types.
- Can be found through Europe, Australia and other types can be found in some countries.
- It’s easy to cook with black truffles, since they can stand up to a lot of heat and other flavours.
- Are often served in pasta, on pizza, or even on hot sandwiches.
- Are used for truffle butter, jarred truffles, and frozen truffles.
The black truffle (also known as a black Périgord truffle) season hits its peak in winter in Europe, with the truffles achieving their strongest flavour and aroma.
Outside of these 3 months, all is not lost. There is another variety of black truffle that can be sourced: the black summer truffle. This variety is slightly milder in flavour and aroma than its winter cousin, but still a quality find nonetheless.
But if it’s Périgord truffle or nothing for you, then there’s a third alternative. Thanks to the magic of human intervention, black Périgord truffles are also cultivated in Australia. Harvested during their winter, this gives Europe a summer supply of Périgord’s to appease the truffle-lovers.
- Tend to taste like garlic and sometimes have a nutty flavour.
- Have a very musky flavour.
- Are the most expensive in the world.
- Are limited to certain parts of Europe, and in particular, the northern part of Italy.
- It’s harder to cook with white truffles, since they’re very delicate and can’t be heated much.
- Are usually grated or shaved and served raw over risotto, pasta, or scrambled eggs.
- Are usually sold fresh and may be used in truffle oil.
The white truffle (also known as “Truffle of the White Madonna”) is the most coveted of all the truffles. The white truffle season starts in Italy from as early as the end of September through to as late as the end of January. This season can shift year-to-year and has been known to be shorter at times.
From late October through November, many towns hold white truffle festivals that highlight the best truffle dishes and other local products like honey, cheese, salami and wine! One of the most spectacular white truffle fairs takes place in Alba, in Piedmont region. Alba's white truffle fair is believed to be one of the best in all of Italy! During your visit, you will enjoy concerts, gastronomic stands and donkey races! The festival is held on weekends from early October to the middle of November.
Another very famous truffle market takes place in the medieval hill town of San Miniato in the Tuscany region. San Miniato's truffle fair offers plenty of entertainment with great restaurants serving truffle dishes at very reasonable prices. It's a great opportunity to explore Tuscan truffles, buy local products and try truffle hunting. The festival takes place on the second, third and fourth weekend of November.
In Le Marche region, you'll find the capital of truffles named Acqualagna, in which a truffle fair also takes place from the end of October to the middle of November. In the Umbria region, you can attend the Trade fair of Truffles while San Pietro Avellana in the Molise region hosts its own truffle market as well.
What else should I know? All truffles are best complimented with eggs—either fresh egg pasta, or egg yolk. Fonduta (Fontina cheese mixed with eggs yolks and milk to create a creamy cheese sauce) with truffle on top is the best.
When you purchase a truffle, we recommend eating it that same day, or within three days maximum—the sooner the better. If you’re not eating it the same day you buy it, avoid subscribing to these common myths:
- DON'T PUT TRUFFLES IN RICE: Storing it in rice will dry your truffle out, and it will be less flavourful.
- DON'T FREEZE TRUFFLES: This will also ruin the flavour .
- DON'T COOK RAW TRUFFLES: Truffles are meant to be eaten raw. If your truffle feels spongy, then it's already old and only then is acceptable to cook it into butter or pasta.
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