To tell the story of the truffle is to tell the history of the world’s civilization.
A Flavorful History of Luxurious Truffles
The truffle’s history, over 3000 years long, is as rich and flavorful as the delicacy itself. From the time of the ancient Sumerians through the period of the Renaissance and now gracing modern day culture, the truffle has been a culinary expression of the privileged lifestyle and haute cuisine, and has lavished the tables of the noble and the notorious since their discovery.
An increased demand for the truffle at the turn of the 19th century introduced them for the first time as a cultivated crop. Two of the most notable types of truffles are the Black Perigord of France and Trifola d’Alba (the white truffle) from Italy. Typically the most sought after, they are also the most expensive easily fetching upwards of $1000 per pound or more. Today, Trifolau and other truffle hunters on their farms are primarily located in France, Italy and Spain, with a handful of others scattered across the globe including the United States, Australia and Canada making the truffle less difficult to obtain – if you can afford them. Their expense is due in part to their allure and the amount of work it takes to gather even a small handful.
Digging for Truffles: Culinary Diamonds
Truffles have a symbiotic relationship with trees and grow underground near the roots. Traditionally, swine have been used to sniff out truffles, but dogs have proven a better hunter, since pigs enjoy truffles almost more than people. Once a truffle has been found, the Truffle Hunter carefully digs up the buried treasure, being careful not to handle the truffle too much.
Truffles are best fresh and are to be enjoyed within a couple of days of being unearthed, as their scent and flavor are lost quickly. The three classifications of truffles are; Extra – exceptional quality truffles with an evenly rounded shape and no deterioration, Category I – good quality with only slight faults, and Category II. Their exterior should be firm not slimy, and their fragrance pleasant, albeit strong, while the interior should have a lacy network of delicate veins running throughout. Cleaning involves washing off the exterior dirt gently with water and a small brush just prior to consuming.
The Truffle, An Exotic Delight
Sexy and intoxicating is typically language used to describe the fragrance of a beautiful woman, yet there are many who say experiencing a truffle is as sumptuous to the senses. Due to its strong perfume, the truffle is best enjoyed as a feature in a dish such as risotto where the bold fragrance can have prominence. The debate lingers on over whether there are truly aphrodisiac qualities to truffles, but certainly a romantic setting with candlelight, soft music, and a fine glass of wine accompanied by a dinner featuring the best this delicacy has to offer will tantalize any palette and set the mood for a very enjoyable and pleasurable evening.
by Lee Anne Michayluk