Truffle is the latest and greatest in food trends, although it has been around for a very, very long time.
What is a truffle?
Although there are hundreds of varieties of truffles, edible truffles are broken into two categories: black and white.
Black truffles are cultivated in several geographic areas, including Europe and the Americas. The most famous “expensive” ones come from around from France and Spain.
Whereas the summer black truffle, the less expensive kind used for making pate, oil and butter, are grown in more areas and have a longer harvest period. The interior is a little darker which is why these items have little black flecks.
Summer truffles are black on the outside, with pale flesh, ranging from cream to grey as they mature. The flavors aren’t as distinct and pungent as the prized black or burgundy truffle, but are still notable. You taste hazelnut and caramelized cream with a very unique smell that smells like, well, truffles.
The white truffle, also known as the “diamond of the kitchen”, has its own unique flavor is grown in Italy. They are characterized as being “earthy” and also have a cream to grey flash, but the exterior are beige and kind look like lumpy small potatoes.
Why Are Truffles so Expensive?
White are the most expensive, followed by black winter and burgundy and then summer. Truffles aren’t grown and harvested like many other types of produce. Instead, they are foraged. Some people have tried, but the results were underwhelming and nearly all chefs and home cooks still prefered wild grown.
Truffle sniffing dogs roam the hillsides with their owners for hours, sometimes days, looking for these prized fungi.
How are truffles used?
White and black truffles can be thinly shaved and top pasta, risotto, steak, chicken, risotto… really anything you’d like. I’ve even seen black truffle ice cream.
When in season, some finer restaurants will offer table-side shaves for upwards of $75 per slice. A little truffle goes a long way and with their distinct scent and taste, you only want them on delicate dishes and sauces so their beauty can really shine.
More commonly you’ll find summer black truffles infused into cheese, butter and oils. These are much less expensive but still pack a punch and can elevate any meal. People will still associate the word truffle with fancy even though it is the cheap one.