What are black truffles?
Truffles are a mycorrhizal fungus that grow under the ground as a result of a symbiotic relationship with particular host trees, most commonly oaks and hazelnuts (but others can be used too). Australia does have native truffles growing however while these are winter food for native animals, they are of little culinary value and are not grown commercially like our Eastern Australian Tablelands Truffles (which are the Perigord or back truffle).
The black truffles are the fruiting body of the mycorrhiza and form in spring, grow through summer and autumn before they mature in winter (late May to August). They are harvested using a specially trained dog. These dogs are trained to identify the strong characteristic aroma produced by ripened truffles and accurately mark its location. The truffle then has to be assessed by a trained human nose to determine whether it is truly ‘ripe’ or should be left in the ground for a few more days before being harvested.
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Truffle in this class are quite rare indeed. Extra class truffles are of the highest quality for both consumption and presentation, are whole with a roundish shape free from crevices and defects, with the exception of a small graders cut to allow buyers to view the gleba, (flesh). They are mature, have the characteristic aroma and colour, a black gleba with well defined white marbling and firm to the touch.
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Truffle in this class are whole or cut pieces, the cut being required to remove any defect or damage and to present a more attractive truffle. They are of irregular shapes and sizes and may have crevices and minor surface imperfections. They will be mature with good aroma, well defined marbling and black gleba (flesh) and firm to the touch.
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Truffle in this class will be mainly pieces or whole truffle that may contain surface imperfections, not be sufficiently mature with a grey gleba (flesh), but will have some aroma and be firm to the touch. They do not qualify for the above classes, however are suitable for infusions and product.
What does it taste like?
The aroma of black truffles is unique and perhaps the most exotic aroma in the world: as a standalone ingredient it is not dazzling to taste.
“Taste on the tongue is the usual sweet, sour, bitter, salty and “umami” (savoury), but the nose is much more discriminatory. Thousands of notes, to a trained nose. The aroma of T. melanosporum (black truffle) is musty and sweet, a very intense mushroom smell overlaid with other notes, especially what wine tasters call “forest floor”. It cooperates with the flavours in food enhancing and intensifying them. A steak with truffle sauce becomes meatier, eggs are transformed into a gourmet item, and every aspect of the meal becomes more satisfying.”
There are two things of culinary value about truffles. The first is the exotic aroma, and taste is 90% aroma. When stored with fatty food substances, the truffle aroma is taken up by the fats. Think eggs, fresh oily nuts or chocolate, as well as cream or grape seed oil.
The second is that truffle contains glutamic acid, a flavour enhancer. Truffles make any food taste better. When the aroma has gone, don’t throw it out, slice it and put it under the skin of a chicken before roasting, insert slivers of truffle in wing sticks or add it to a soup or stew and let the glutamate kick in!
Different uses for truffles in cooking
Truffles are harvested from the ground and, while they are carefully washed and inspected by responsible growers, you should take the usual precautions of washing them before use. They are quite tough, so a wash under the tap and a light brushing with a stiff brush is recommended.
They should be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container to prevent the aroma from contaminating other stored fatty foods. They continually lose moisture and should be wrapped in a paper towel (changed daily), to keep them dry. If they grow a little white mould on them just wash them under the tap, as above, and return them dry and wrapped to the storage container. It has been suggested that storage in rice is good as the rice absorbs the aroma however this is incorrect as only fats take up the aroma and rice can quickly dry out the truffle.
If you want to make truffle salt, it is better to just use the skin progressively as you consume the truffle flesh (gleba). Each time you use the truffle in your food, simply peel the outer skin away from the amount of truffle gleba you need, chop the skin finely and place it in the salt jar.
There are many ideas to create your own truffle inspiration, or you can find some truffle recipes HERE for the latest truffle related updates.
For further information see the ABOUT TRUFFLES section of this web site. And yes, you CAN buy direct from us. To enquire about our pricing and the current black truffle grades available, please call us on 0497 783 053.