Truffles - The allure of truffles - It's all about the smell!
Did You Know?
You smell them and you become willing to do whatever you have to do to have them.
Truffles are the culinary equivalent of sex. You love them or you
don’t. You smell them or you don’t. You need them or you don’t.
That most women describe the aroma of fresh truffles and truffle oil
as earthy and very sensual? That most men just laugh and give you a funny look when you tell them what women think of truffles and
truffle oil? Remember that I said most men and not all!
truffles have been said to possess mystical aphrodisiac powers. What
is it about truffles that make them so irresistible to gourmet
cooks? Why this allure? It's all in the particular odor of a few
types of truffles. Connoisseurs actually consider truffles an
aphrodisiac, but there is no scientific evidence to this claim. Some
describe their smell as musky, earthy, pungent, or even sexy,
although none of these terms adequately describe the odor. Once you
have smelled a truffle, you long to smell it again and again.
Truffles don't really have much of a 'taste," but the smell is so overwhelming that
it infuses any meal (and often the refrigerator). The actual taste of truffles is a little bland and when sliced over food, they are
chewy. It's the smell that keeps you coming back.
Part of the reason is also their scarcity. Truffles are buried in the earth like
little black diamonds (so nicknamed by French gastronome Brillat-Savarin). It seems to be human nature to crave what is hard
to come by. Finding them is not easy. It takes patience, persistence, and knowledge of their growing conditions, as they're elusive.
Note from Linda Stradley - One whiff and the seductive smell sends me to heaven! I have
personally taken a poll of my lady friends, and most feel the same
way I do. So, what are you waiting for? Give truffles and truffle
oil a try in your cooking. It is so gourmet!
The mention of
truffles brings up images of the expensive black and white truffles
of France. But the truffles from Oregon are just as aromatic, and
less than one-tenth the price of their famous French counterparts.
Oregon truffles are emerging as one of the world's great delicacies,
taking their richly-deserved place next to their legendary European
Only in the past 20 years or so have several species of
Oregon truffles become recognized for their culinary quality and
potential value in the marketplace. In fact, with truffle production
declining in Europe since 1900, Oregon's relatively untapped supply
is gaining more and more notice. Truffles grow west of the Cascade Mountains, from Vancouver Island, British
Columbia, south to northern California. Fortunately for Oregonians,
prime habitat for Oregon's culinary truffles (both white and black)
is found in young, fast-growing Douglas Fir tree plantation in the
foothills of the Willamette Valley.
Truffles are a fungi, like mushrooms, but which grow under ground. Truffles also
are the fruiting bodies of my corrhizal fungi that live in soil and
associate with tree roots. But, instead of fruiting above ground,
the truffle fruits below ground - and never sees the light of day
(unless it is dug up). As a result, most people have never seen a
truffle! Yet, truffles are common in the Pacific Northwest -
especially in Douglas Fir forests, as they grow in the needles and
topsoil around the Douglas fir tree. Most of the harvest takes place
on tree farms.
Oregon truffles are not attractive, as they grow underground and look like
it. These small potato-like fruits are warty and gnarled. Some are
the size of golf balls or small nuts; some are larger. It is
believed, that in many parts of the Northwest, truffles may be as
common as above-ground mushrooms. In the Pacific Northwest, truffles
are still a relatively untapped source of wild food.
Two main types of Oregon truffles are currently harvested in the state, the Oregon
white truffles (Tuber oregonense) and (Tuber gibbosum). The while truffles are actually two species that fruit at different
times of the year, but are sold as the same truffle.
Cooking with Oregon Truffles:
Grated over a
dish of food, a tiny amount of truffle shavings can change a common
dish into food for royalty. The ripeness or maturity of the truffle
is the key, because the odor only becomes intense when the spores
are ready to be released. To extend these expensive treats, keep in
mind that a little truffle goes a long way. A small amount will give you a lot of flavor and aroma.
The truffles flavor and aroma can be destroyed by heat, so finding ways to incorporate their use into
food preparation with little or no heat is important. Don’t cook truffles, because the flavor escapes too much. Delicate
white truffles are best when not cooked at all, but shaved raw over
your favorite dish. You always want to maximize the truffle flavor,
using the least amount of the ingredient as possible. So always
slice into paper-thin wedges or strips. Use a truffle shaver
(similar to a cheese grater) when shaving truffles.
Truffles can be stirred into a risotto or scrambled eggs, but should be added at the
end of the cooking time, as a finishing touch. When shaved paper
thin, it makes dime-size rounds of an attractive dark-tan color,
accented with a pretty, lacy network of white veins.
Try putting some ripe truffles in a jar them with some bourbon. The resulting essence will make a wonderful sauce
for your cooking.
The French consider Oregon truffles as "non-truffle
truffles" or "false truffles," but chefs across the United States
consider them every bit as delicious and exotic as their European
cousins and are using them in their culinary masterpieces. In the
winter, Oregon truffles have become a festive fixture on the menus
of Oregon restaurants specializing in regional cuisine.
The late James Beard
(1903-1985), American chef and food writer, has been quoted as
declaring the Oregon truffle
“at least as good…as Italian white.”
You will find Oregon truffles in the markets from
November to March, but they're sporadic. In other words, buy them
when you see them.
Purchasing and Storing Oregon Truffles:
Not only do truffles need to
be ripe to develop the strongest odors, but they need to be fresh. Make sure that the black or white truffles you're buying are
fresh. Look for mature truffles that are firm with a slight give, not spongy
or slimy. If they feel soft or have soft spots, they're starting to decay. They get slimy and smelly when old.
If you can see the interior, white truffles should have a light brown
marbling on the inside; black truffles will have charcoal-gray marbling.
frozen Oregon Black Truffles and
frozen Oregon White Truffles (when
The scent should be pungent, but in a good way -
floral, chocolate or fruit aromas in black truffles, and musky-spicy perfume
in white truffles. Truffle should smell, but not stink! Any truffle that has
an ammonia smell should be tossed! Proper handling, quick shipment, and prompt use preserve these qualities and
enhance the dining pleasure.
Once you purchase and take
home your truffle/truffles, use it as soon as your can before the
truffle dries out and the wonderful aroma dissipates.
Lightly rinse the
truffles, pat dry with paper towels, brush use a soft basting brush or
mushroom brush, and carefully pick out any dirt and mold in the nooks
and crannies with the tip of a knife.
cut the truffles until you’re ready to use them - they lose aroma
Storing Ripe Truffles:
As truffles grow underground, you will need to clean them before
cooking. Options for storing:
Wrap each truffle with
a paper towel and refrigerate in a paper bag or a perforated plastic
container. Store the container on the lower
shelf or door of the refrigerator, where it is less cold.
This will maintain freshness for 2 to 3 days.
not seal them in a plastic bag, as they will succumb to moisture and
Store truffles in a
glass jar with hard-cooked eggs for 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator.
This will infuse the eggs with the wonderful aroma of the truffles.
Truffles can be frozen, for a maximum period of 6 months,
in a vacuum package or in an air-tight container with a minimum of air space in order to conserve
their aroma. If freezing, do so in small usable quantities. As long as they are not defrosted and
refrozen, the original freezing process will not harm the flavor of the truffles. Wrap the
truffles in saran or plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Place in a closed container
(even a baggie with a tie) and into the freezer.
The truffle can also be stored in olive oil prior to freezing. Completely cover the
truffles with the oil (the truffles must be completely covered with oil or fat to avoid
freezer burn. Freezing truffles in oil should force most of the aromatic esters (the
elements which truffles are sought after) into the oil, where they should be captured for
If you use truffles immediately after collection
from the ground, they are often unripe and will have almost no aroma, even
if they are mature enough to eat. If your truffles are real hard and
don't smell like much, wait!
They must be washed with water and
brushed just before using or storing.
The outside must be immaculate since
they will be used unpeeled. Rinse the truffles, brush with a damp towel, dry with a paper towel,
and brush or pick out the dirt in the nooks and crannies with the
tip of a knife.
Your truffle may take
several days to ripen so as to develop their flavor and odor. Store them in
an air-tight container (re-sealable plastic bag) in your refrigerator until the
aroma "comes up" - you will know when that happens as an you
smell smell the aroma.
condensation will build up inside the bag. This is normal and actually
hastens the ripening process.
According to Jack Czarnecki,
world-renowned wild mushroom expert, and chef/co-owner of the Palmer House
Restaurant in Dayton, OR:
bone-white on the inside when unripe, then mature so that the interior
looks like a slice of pepperoni with a dark brown background with
multiple veining networking throughout the interior. This is the state
at which it is best consumed. A fully ripe truffle has three main
The truffle will turn
color white white to light tan, and finally to medium brown.
The truffle will become softer and exhibit a little
"give" when squeezed.
The truffle will give off an odor of musty, earth, and
a spicy, garlic-like gaseous smell.
Quotes on Truffles:
At the time I write, the glory ofthe truffle has now reached its culmination . . . . In fine, the truffle is the very
diamond of gastronomy . . . . The truffle is not an outright aphrodisiac, but it may in
certain circumstances make women more affectionate and men more amiable. Who
ever says truffle, pronounces a great word, which awakens erotic and
gourmand ideas both in the sex dressed in petticoats and in the bearded
portion of humanity.
- Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), French author and gastronomist,
from his book The Physiology of Taste, 1825.
The most learned men have been questioned as
to the nature of this tuber, and after two thousand years of argument and
discussion their answer is the same as it was on the first day: we do not
know. The truffles themselves have been interrogated, and have answered
simply: eat us and praise the Lord
- Alexandre Dumas(1802-1870)
When asked by a social-climbing
Paris hostess how he liked his truffles, Curnonsky replied, "In great
quantity, madame. In great quantity."
- Curnonsky (Maurice Edmond Sailland), French writer (1872-1956)
You pay its
weight in gold for it, then in most cases you put it to some paltry use. You smear it with
foie gras, you bury it in poultry overloaded with fat, you chop it up and drown it in
brown sauce, you mix it with vegetables covered in mayonnaise.....To hell with thin
slices, strips, trimmings, and peelings of truffles! Is it not possible to like them for
- Colette (Sidonie Gabrielle) French novelist. (1873-1954)
Frequently Asked Questions Using Oregon Truffles:
Question: Do I peel the outside offor do I use it?
Answer: They don't really peel per se...but
they can seem that way if you hit them with a hard-enough water spray. Just washing them
off under running water with a slightly dampened toothbrush, soft basting brush, or
mushroom brush is the best way to do it. Just be sure you get any dirt or mold off of
them before slicing over food: the dirt is not the best addition, but does help hold
the truffle for a longer shelf-life.
you please tell me how long you can keep a truffle in oil for and what do
you do if the truffles has a cloudy edge around it inside the oil.
The truffle can also be stored in olive oil prior to freezing. Completely
cover the truffles with the oil (the truffles must be completely covered
with oil or fat to avoid freezer burn). Freezing truffles in oil should
force most of the aromatic esters (the elements which truffles are sought
after) into the oil, where they should be captured for later use.
Question: After you open a bottle of
truffle oil, is it typical for truffle oil to lose its aroma?
Check out my web page for
more information on
Oil. Even though it is recommended that you keep your oils in a dark cool cabinet. I
always keep my rarely used ones in the refrigerator. Since I started doing this, my
truffle oil has not lost its aroma. The oil will cloud up and solidify, but that
dissipates once you bring the oil back to room temperature.
Truffles...A Culinary Delight
From The Forest, An Oregon Garden Guide to Truffles, May 2005, by Dave
Pilz, Forest Mycologist, Department of Forest Science, Oregon State
University, Corvallis, OR and Mike Bondi, Oregon State University Extension
Agent, Oregon City, OR.
The Fungus Among Us, by Jessica Maxwell,
Green Gourmet, National Audubon Society, January-February 2005.