Truffles are considered luxury ingredients, which is why they are quite expensive and are typically only added to fine dining dishes. The white truffle, also famous as the diamond of the kitchen, is a unique edible fungus known for its distinct smell and taste.
What is a White Truffle?
Truffles are the spore forming parts of an edible fungus which belong to the Tuberaceae family. They are found underground and thrive near the roots of hardwood trees like oaks, chestnuts, and hazelnuts. While all the varieties of truffles are popular, the white truffle (tuber magnatum) is the most favorite among foodies. White truffles have a large size (nearly 3.5 inches in diameter), are available in limited quantities, and have an unforgettable taste which makes them a winner among the other truffle varieties.
The white truffles grow wild between the months of September to December in the forests around Alba (a Piemontese township) in Italy. They grow mainly in the forests of Langhe (between the Tanaro and Po rivers). In the old days the truffles were hunted with pigs, but now they are sniffed by professionally trained truffle hunter dogs.
Truffles grown in different parts of the world will have different flavors and aromas due to the different properties of the soil, the trees they grow under, and the season in which they are harvested; the properties of truffles are directly influenced by the environment they grow in.
Varieties of Truffles
Truffles have many varieties which include black, Burgundy, whitish, pine, garlic, and the most coveted, white truffles.
Taste of White Truffles
White truffles are more pungent with a deep earthy flavor/aroma that resembles garlic or shallots. They are pale golden and have a firm compact shape and spongy texture.
Culinary Uses of White Truffles
Since the flavors of truffles are volatile they quickly evaporate when heated, therefore truffles are rarely cooked. White truffles are shaved thinly on top of hot cooked food right before serving. This allows the warmth of the food to intensify the flavors and aromas. White truffles are usually served with simple flavored foods like eggs or pasta. You can try adding some shaved white truffle over these recipes for mouth-watering umami flavor:
White truffles are also grated into wine or cream sauces. White truffle shavings are also added under poultry skin before roasting or shaved onto meats like pork, beef, or venison. White truffle infused oil is also a very popular dressing in salads and sauces. Moreover, due to its lack of availability, truffle butter is also very popular worldwide.
Storing and Sourcing White Truffles
Truffles are extremely perishable, they begin losing their potency the moment they are dug up from the ground. They have a shelf life of around 4-5 days, must be kept in a cool and dry place, and are difficult to source. This is one of the reasons for its high price and demand. You can buy white truffles from specialty stores, and Italian food markets, and of course, online.
Feature Image: Flickr user Muy Yum ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 )