15 October 2007

Girls ain't nuthin' but truffle

ugly as sin and delicious as fuck.

An old friend from Germany was in town last week and next thing you know we were eating fancy fromage with truffles and honey at Otto.

I'd always heard about truffles but never really understood what was going on. I think I always just thought of a box of chocolate truffles. It took a girl from Germany to school me. Figures.

"As truffles are considered a delicacy, they command high prices. The world's most expensive truffle was a 3 pound 5 ounce rare White Alba truffle. It was sold for the equivalent of $160,000."
OK, great; but what the fuck is a truffle?!

It's basically a very fancy and very elusive mushroom that plays tugboat to big trees, k?

"Truffles are a group of several valuable and highly sought-after edible species of underground ascomycetes belonging to the Tuber family of fungus. All are ectomycorrhizal and are therefore found in close association with trees and the roots of trees."
The ascoma (fruiting body) of truffles is highly prized as food. It has a smell similar to deep-fried sunflower seeds or walnuts, though not all people are able to catch the odor of this fungus.

The water after soaking truffles can taste a bit like soy sauce. Brillat-Savarin called the truffle "the diamond of the kitchen" and praised its aphrodisiacal powers. While the aphrodisiacal characteristics of truffles have not been established, it is still held in high esteem in French, northern Italian and Istrian cooking, and in international haute cuisine.

A typical Saturday at my flat, save for the caviar

The origin of the word truffle appears to lie in the Latin term tuber, meaning "lump". Bet ya never thought a ectomycorrhizal lump could be a) so goddamn delicious and b) so goddamn expensive, huh?

True truffles form symbiotic relationships with several varieties of trees, including oak, beech, hazel and poplar; pretty much every tree save for maples and cedars. Truffles flourish throughout the autumn, winter and spring, and can be found buried between the fallen leaves and twigs and the soil.

Their growth beneath the earth's surface is thought to be an adaptation to forest fires, drought, or severe cold, where the mushrooms on the surface of the soil are more prone to destruction.

The elusive Black truffle or Black Périgord Truffle (Tuber melanosporum) is named for the Périgord region in France and grows exclusively with oak.

The coveted White truffle or Alba Truffle (Tuber magnatum) comes from the Langhe area of the Piedmont region in northern Italy and, most famously, in the countryside around the city of Alba. It is also found in Croatia, in the Motovun forest alongside Mirna river. Growing symbiotically with oak, hazel, poplar and beech and fruiting in autumn.

Since they are so goddamn puzzling and tricky but so damn delectable, they basically outwit human beings; therefore we must employ truffle hogs and truffle dogs to stick their snouts into the earth and root out these fancy fungi.

Looking for truffles in open ground is almost always carried out with specially trained pigs - affectionately known as truffle hogs or, more recently dogs. Pigs were the most used in the past, but nowadays dogs are preferred.

The female pig's natural truffle radar as well as her usual intent to eat the truffle is due to a compound within the truffle similar to androstenol, the sex pheromone of boar saliva, to which the sow is keenly attracted. It may have been the strange attraction that pigs have to these fungi which prompted its discovery by early human populations.

A man and his truffle hog

Truffle hogs have been used for their keen sense of smell and their innate ability to sniff out truffles, however, these guys have a tendency to eat the truffles once they find them; which may be the cutest thing I've ever heard. I would love to see some nut up to his thighs in olive green mud boots in the middle of the winter in the middle of the murky muddy Motovun forest with his truffle hog. After days and days of searching, finally truffle hog wags his little corkscrew tail signaling he's found a treasure trove of elusive Alba Truffles... just then, up comes his muddy snout from 5 feet under soil and he's got a mouth full of them, chewing away with glee, truffles all over his face... I love it!

Dog the Truffle Hunter

So because of this scenario, most truffle hunters have now trained dogs to find their truffles. Naturally dogs have an insane sense of smell, but they lack the innate ability to hunt truffles like the pigs do, but they won't eat them once they find them.

I wish I could adopt a retired truffle dog. They should have truffle dog rescues like they have greyhound rescues and stuff. I'd love to have my dog with an orange coat on "Search & Rescue Truffle Dept".

White truffles are generally served uncooked and shaved over steaming buttered pasta or salads. Some specialty cheeses contain truffles as well.

The flavour of black truffles is far less pungent and more refined than that of white truffles. It is reminiscent of fresh earth and mushrooms, and when fresh, their scent fills a room almost instantly. In 2006, designer Tom Ford released a perfume that lists black truffle as its first note. Baby, is that truffle you're wearing?

Truffle oil is often used as a lower-cost substitute for truffles to provide flavouring, or to enhance the flavor and aroma of truffles in cooking. However, most truffle oil is a synthetic product that contains no actual truffles. Bootleggers!

"In the throes of truffle fever" by Tyrone Beason, Seattle Times
"How truffles look, taste and smell." {Gourmet Attitude}
Frequently Asked Truffle Questions
Hunter scours Turin woods for white truffles: Skilled Italian harvests rare, indigenous fungi at night with hound {MSNBC}

Truffle dog training?There are very few places that offer truffle dog training in the U.S. (we only know of two trainers: Pasqual Sricco in New Jersey and Trifecta Training in Oregon. The general principal is to start when the dog is young, and get them used to the scent of truffles by having them fetch a sock with mature truffles inside, and gradually work up to finding the hidden, then buried sock. Some folks have used a pungent cheese (like limburger) as a surrogate for mature truffles. Some links to accounts of truffle dog training are below:
Truffle dog training in Italy
A history of training poodles
Hunting truffles with dogs in France
Hunting truffles with dogs in Alba

Truffle hunter Gianni Monchero and his dog Leddi (Turin, Italy)

my next tattoo

1 comment:

Community College said...

truffle hogs are the best. How cute that they wanna eat them. Informative post!