There are many positive qualities and experiences that have made me a big truffle fan. First of all, truffles are one of the super delicacies, of which there are only a handful like caviar, lobster, foie gras, oysters or Kobe beef. But of all super delicacies, only the truffle has the 100% positive history. This means that everyone involved, from the seeker and his dog to the trader, the cook and the guest, all have only positive experiences and happy faces. This is not always the case with the other super delicacies, especially when you are the delicacy yourself. Besides, the truffle has the magic that no other food has. It enchants and improves the dishes that are prepared or eaten with it. So much so, in fact, that professional chefs see it as the strongest legitimate tuner of the upscale cuisine. However, this only applies to the culinary valuable truffles.
How many types of truffles are traded?
Seven varieties plus one variant. These are in descending order of value:
- White truffle (tuber magnatum pico)
- Winter precious truffle (tuber melanosporum vit.)
- Winter truffle (tuber brumale)
- Bianchetti truffle Italy (tuber borchii, tuber albidum)
- Summer truffle (tuber aestivum), variant Burgundy truffle (tuber uncinatum)
- Bianchetti truffle Morocco (tuber oligosperum)
- Asian truffle (tuber indicum, tuber himalayensis)
They speak of three groups into which they can be divided. What are they?
They are the groups of the culinary valuable truffles, which consist only of the white truffles and the winter precious truffles. The group of the culinary justifiable truffles, which are recruited from winter truffle, bianchetti Italy and summer or burgundy truffle and the culinary worthless truffles, which are the Asian truffles and the Moroccan bianchettis.
What has the most influence on the truffle quantity/harvest? What about climate change?
The weather has a great influence on the quantity of truffles and also on their quality. But there have always been good and bad truffle years. I think it is too easy to blame this on climate change. It would probably have to follow that the good truffle areas are moving north, but they are not.
Can truffles be cultivated?
Growing truffles would mean that you could produce them in a test tube or in a greenhouse. This does not work. However, it is possible to cultivate a truffle field in such a way that all the conditions for the successful establishment of the truffle are met. This works if all climatic and soil chemical conditions are present at about 15% and only for the black varieties. Despite the low success, almost all truffle producing areas in Europe and Australia are cultivated in this way today. With white truffles, one must continue to rely on nature. Here it only helps if you keep an eye on the wood and make sure that no natural enemies of the white truffle are spreading.
How can I recognize in a restaurant which truffle or which quality I am dealing with?
The restaurateur who can afford culinary valuable truffles will gladly and loudly announce this. He will especially work with white truffles at the table and not in the kitchen, and anyone who has ever had this heavenly pleasure will never forget this stunning smell. The restaurateurs who work with these products will also give you precise information about the origin and variety. Those who only write or offer truffles will rather use the inexpensive varieties of the lower categories.
Where is the biggest fraud lurking for customers in supermarkets and restaurants?
The list is long. Starting with Asian truffles, which are declared as black truffles, through microscopically small quantities in finished products, to the cheap restaurants that replace the missing aroma of cheap truffles with synthetic truffle aroma in truffle oil.
How quickly should truffles be consumed and what is the best way to store them?
Buy fresh truffles just before consuming them or have them sent to you and then consume them as soon as possible. Until then, store in a closed container in the refrigerator.
What is the reason / could it be that many people do not like truffles or have had bad experiences with them?
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like real truffles of the culinary valuable variety, but hardly anyone is a friend of the culinary worthless truffle. But these are far more common than the good truffles. Also the wasteful use of truffle oil has a big part in the antipathy of some people against truffles.
How many truffles should there be?
I proceed according to a fixed motto: “The food to be truffled must not be visible among the truffles. Only those who follow this and also take the right truffle will be able to discover the magic of truffles. In a starter with white Truffles often already four to five grams, in a pasta dish as main course should be planned eer already 15 grams or more. With black truffles I would always calculate at least twice as much as with white truffles to achieve a similar result.
When is the white truffle in season?
In Italy the season starts on October 1st and ends on December 31st. Before and after this date it is forbidden to search and trade in these truffles.
Where does it grow and where do the best qualities come from?
It grows on many mountain ranges all over Italy, in neighboring Istria and also in Croatia. The best ones come from Piedmont in the Alba area and from Emilia Romagna, near Bologna.
How can I recognize good quality truffles?
A strong smell, a firm consistency and a high specific weight are good indicators to determine the quality.
What is the best way to describe its aroma and flavour?
There are always vague similarities, such as those with garlic or musk, but these do not do justice to the true fragrance of white truffles. Especially since the scent is not as sharp and biting as with garlic. The white truffle just smells like white truffle, but this in full consequence. Just like vanilla smells like vanilla.
In contrast, its taste is rather profound. But you can taste it more like a gentle breeze or a soft cloth on your skin and not like a storm or a leather whip, as you might think with this scent. But one should not forget: what we call “taste” is to a large extent always a smell!
How much does a kilo of truffle cost during the season?
In some years between 3000 and 5000 euros per kilo; in other years, like 2017, between 6000 and 8000 euros per kilo. Of course this sounds heavy, but the price per kilo is only interesting for wholesalers, for everyone else only the portion price for a few grams is relevant. And you can certainly treat yourself to that.
Where do the names Perigord and Albatruffel come from?
In former times these were the centers of the national and international truffle trade. With the Perigord, however, it has completely survived. Only a few percent of the winter precious truffles are found or traded there. Alba is still a flourishing truffle town, where tens of thousands of truffle pilgrims come together during the truffle season.
Is it used warm or cold and what is it best suited for?
You should not heat it too much. It develops its aroma best at 50 to 60 degrees and that only for a short time. So it is best to slice the truffle raw over the finished, hot food after serving. Since the taste is not particularly strong, it is recommended to avoid complicated or strongly spiced dishes. Dishes that are not too strongly spiced are a perfect match. For example fried egg with spinach, pasta with cream sauce, risotto, polenta or fonduta.
Slicing or grating?
Slicing, as long as it is a good slicer that can slice really thin. The Large Shaver from Microplane * works best. This company also makes the grater, with which you can grate the truffle into small threads. But you should only use this one if you want to pile a small hill of truffles on a single piece, like a raviolo for example.
How long does truffle last?
When it is dug up, it keeps its full aroma for about three days, after which it loses about 10% of its aroma every day.
When is the black truffle in season?
In Europe from December to March, in Australia from June to August.
Where does the black truffle grow and where do the best qualities come from?
The biggest producer is Spain with 60 tons per year, followed by France with 20 tons per year and Italy and Australia with 10 tons per year each. The best qualities in Europe come from Northern Provence in France, non-European from Western Australia.
How do I recognize good quality?
The scent is by far not as strong as that of the white truffle, but should still be clearly perceptible. It should be as hard as a hazelnut kernel and also have a high specific gravity. It should be very dark inside and show a distinct white marbling.
What is the best way to describe its aroma?
Again, scholars argue because there is no comparable aroma. Therefore, it primarily smells naturally truffles. To describe it, words like earthy, woody and mushroomy are often used. But I find that confuses more than it helps. I would say: seductive and sweet, a little sweet and a little earthy, but light years away from the almost “macho” presence of the white truffle.
So while it is still restrained on the nose, the taste is quite different. In other words, exactly the opposite of the white truffle. Black truffle also has not the slightest trace of bitterness or other unpleasant nuances. Instead, its taste is a cornucopia of beguiling aromas.
How do the scent and taste of the black truffle differ from the white truffle?
While the white truffle defines its aroma by 80% in fragrance and only 20% in taste, the black truffle defines its aroma by 80% in taste and only 20% in fragrance.
How much does the kilo cost during the season?
Between 1500 and 2000 euros per kilo. Plus-minus 30%. Usually always one third of the price of the white truffle. For example, if white truffles cost 5000 euros per kilo, then black truffles cost about 1800 euros per kilo in the following season. How high the price actually is depends, as always, on supply and demand.
Do you use it warm or cold?
Since only the smell is fleeting, but the taste remains or is passed on to the accompanying food, black truffles are ideal for cooking, steaming, roasting and other cooking techniques. Cold on top also works. The king’s way is a combination of both.
Slicing or grating?
Plane raw. When cooking along, you can also cut it into slices or sticks.
What is it best for?
Poultry (under the skin), egg dishes, warm cheese, braised meat, in sauce and pretty much everything that Western cuisine has to offer.
How long does it last?
Two to three days longer than the white truffle.
How good are black truffles in a can?
A good alternative to the fresh truffle, if tuber melonasporum is on the can or the glass.
How good is canned truffle juice?
It is the best truffle product of all, but unfortunately it can only be used to a limited extent. It is mostly used in sauces and dressings. But there is also a damn good hangover (cocktail for the morning after) made of truffle jus. It consists of 50% truffle juice and 50% cold vodka. Then you add a liquid egg yolk. This drink is supposed to drive away all evil spirits.
What is the tuber brumale?
The tuber brumale is a cultural successor of the tuber melanosporum. So it grows in the same places when the melanosporum has stopped growing there. It has the character of the melanosporum, but only about 40% of its strength. It is rare and inexpensive. French housewives, who find melanosporum too expensive, love to use it.
When is the summer truffle season?
From May to August with light flesh and dark skin. It is then called tuber aestivum; and from September to April with darker flesh and dark skin, it is then called tuber uncinatum or Burgundy truffle. However, it is not as common as the light variety.
Where does it grow, and where do the best qualities come from?
The season starts in April with a very sweet-smelling variety in Provence. Within a short period of time it can be found all over Europe. The northernmost finds come from Sweden and England. Besides France, Italy and Spain, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Croatia are also well-known and profitable producers. The quality of all varieties is within manageable limits. Here the freshness is almost more important than the origin.
Why is it not as good/aromatic as the white and black truffles?
The variety does not give that away. It has only about 20% of the aroma of tuber melanosporum.
How much does a kilo of summer truffle cost during the season?
Between 200 and 400 euros per kilogram is normal. In very opulent years also times only 100 euro per kilogram. In the scarce weeks in late autumn and in winter also now and then 600 – 800 euro.
What is the difference between summer and Burgundy truffles?
One speaks of one and the same truffle, which grows however at a later time, at another place. However, areas where only Burgundy truffles grow, such as Burgundy, like to insist that the tuber uncinatum is an independent variety. But science cannot confirm this.
What is Chinese truffle good for?
It looks like a truffle and it feels like a truffle. This makes it ideal as a table decoration, for example. In other words: it is tasteless.
How much does the kilo cost during the season?
Always about 100 euros per kilo. Smaller pieces also cost less.
Why can Chinese truffles be called black truffles according to the guidelines for mushrooms?
This decision is as stupid and misleading as hardly anything else. Whoever pushed this through was either a commercial genius with criminal intentions or a bureaucratic jackass who didn’t know what it was all about. My guess is a combination of both.
How are truffle flavor and truffle oil made?
Truffle flavor, like thousands of other flavors, is produced in the chemical factory and this is then mixed with oil. Finished.
Is there really real truffle aroma that is made from truffles and not in a laboratory?
Yes, some modern organic producers like the company Ppura work with it. However, it differs greatly from synthetic or nature-identical flavor. It tastes more like truffle, but is much less strong. This frightens the customer, because he is used to the strong stuff of the industry.
Why are there such big price differences for truffle oil?
It is 50% because of the quality of the oil and 50% because of the quality of the aroma. If both are of excellent quality, it is quite possible to produce a good truffle oil. However, you won’t find one of these in the supermarket and certainly not at a discount store.
Is there any sensible way to use truffle oil?
The biggest mistake with truffle oil is always the overproportionation. A lot helps a lot, is completely wrong here. A few drops, however, can certainly improve a dish. A good self-trick is the test with mashed potatoes. Put two spoons of mashed potatoes separately on a plate and put three drops of truffle oil in one of the spoons. Now try the two against each other. 80% of the testers prefer the test with truffle oil as long as it is a good oil. With the organic truffle oil from Ppura you can of course be more generous.