Updated: Aug 19
These are not chocolate, but a fascinating edible fungi that also makes a very special treat!
To make a very simple description, truffles are an underground mushroom growing under “host” trees. The most common edible and important commercially variety, the Black Perigord, grows under oaks and hazelnut trees and is harvested in winter. This one is most favourable in the French haute cuisine for its sublime taste and has been considered “the black diamond” of France since the 19th century. It has been produced in Australia for around 20 years and was first been cultivated in the cold soil of Tasmania. I had never tasted truffle before living in the Snowy Valleys, where the climate is also suitable for growing these amazing fungi. Having the opportunity to explore recipes and photography with some of these fresh earth jewels has been much appreciated. This is not a readily accessible produce for everyone, and growers have to keep the high value of truffles even when having overflows of stock. There are many factors to it and as the shelf life is so short, the market can be challenging. However, as a hobby and gourmet cooking interest we have been researching and beginning to prepare to grow our own little family truffière but we are still evaluating the pros and cons of this idea. The bushfires that came through Batlow at the start of 2020 had sadly damaged some fungi crops among the orchards, homes, forests and wildlife. The patch where we were going to produce ours has also been affected. If we would have put young trees there already, I doubt they would have survived.
GROWING & COOKING TIPS
Growing truffles requires patience, space, a good budget and a suitable climate of warm summer (above 20C) and cold winters (about 5C). Before planting any trees, soil has to be tested and ph level raised to an optimal alkaline soil between 7.5 and 8.5. Fungus inoculated trees can be purchased from a trufficulture nursery. While establishing, young trees need a little care but also definitely irrigation and protection. For harvesting, a trained dog is essential for hunting the truffles. If you ever get success after 4 to 6 years, “if” you do, the cost of this preparation could be payed back handsomely as the value of truffles is around $1500 to $2500 per kg (varies with type and grade). There is no need to be a master chef to cook truffles and not much else to do with preparation when using them raw, as a finishing. Just shaving it on light colour and warm rich food will simply highlight the truffle look and flavour. Best examples are with mashed potatoes, cauliflower puree soup, risottos, creamy pastas, scrambled eggs, gourmet pizza or simply into a toasted cheese sandwich. Anything with melting cheese is a winner! Truffle oil is probably the easiest and most affordable way to purchase it… but beware of the many artificially flavoured ones. Fresh truffles don’t store for long (1 or 2 weeks kept dry in the fridge) and will start losing flavour after 5 days. You’ll know that it’s spoiled if it smells like petits pieds (stinky feet)… To preserve a fresh truffle for later at home, best way is to shave or grate it into butter and freeze it (up to 3 months). A slice of that butter will melt and taste amazing on a piece of steak. If you are digging truffles and keen for an incredible challenging experience, try my Mission Impossible Poutine with black truffle and cheese curds (but it can also work great with other types of melting cheese).
Home cooking experiments with fresh truffle • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2018
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