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THE TRUFFLE QUEEN: ITS HISTORY
AN INGREDIENT OF CHOICE FROM ANTIQUITY
There truffle has been appreciated, sought after and tasted since ancient times, by the Greeks as well as the Romans. In ancient Greece, love potions could contain truffles. According to mythology, this mushroom was created by several gods: Zeus (King of the gods), Hephaestus (God of fire and blacksmiths), Dionysus (God of wine and celebrations) and Aphrodite (Goddess of love and beauty). Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis, better known as Juvenal, a 1st century Latin poet, mentions, in his 5th satire, the truffles served at the tables of the Roman nobility. The writers Pliny the Elder and Plutarch also mention the truffle, which would be a tumor generated by the Earth or which would form at the foot of trees, following the action of thunder.
A RETURN THANKS TO THE RENAISSANCE
It was not until the Renaissance that the variety " Tuber Magnatum Pico " was distinguished. It was the doctor Vittorio Pico who gave it this name, in reference to the noble people of high society.
In the 19th century, the Piedmontese truffle was given pride of place in the famous recipe for “ Tournedos Rossini ”. The idea for this dish is said to be attributed to the famous Italian composer, Gioacchino Rossini. He named this variety of truffle the “Mozart of mushrooms”.
A FAIR DEDICATED TO THIS LUXURY FOOD
In 1928, during the wine fair in Alba, a town located in Italian Piedmont, Giacomo Morra organized an exhibition on the white truffle . The immediate success led Mr. Morra to create a fair dedicated to this white mushroom. First local, it became national in the early 60s and then international in the late 90s. This Alba fair (Fiera del tarfuffo blanco) has become the world-renowned market for the purchase of local truffles or Tuber magnatum Pico . She made the truffle all the more famous when the largest specimen was offered to a renowned guest. Thus, politicians, actresses or filmmakers, such as Winston Churchill, Marylin Monroe and Alfred Hitchcock had this privilege.
THE TUBER MAGNATUM PICO
ITALIAN PIEDMONT, CRADLE OF THE WHITE DIAMOND
The Tuber magnatum Pico truffle is exclusively wild. It likes particularly humid land, next to streams, and grows near trees such as willows or poplars. These species have, in fact, the particularity of also appreciating land that retains rainwater or that is located near springs, streams, etc. The White Truffle is harvested mainly around the town of Alba, in the Langhe, in the northwest of Italy, in Piedmont. It is also found, in a more limited way, in the north, in Lombardy, in Veneto, in Emilia-Romagna as well as in the center, in Umbria, in Tuscany, in Marche and Abruzzo.
Every year, during the Alba Truffle Fair, the harvested mushrooms are offered to buyers from all over the world. In order to ensure their authenticity, they are certified, after analysis, by experts from the National Center for Truffle Studies. To close this fair, a world auction takes place, accessible only by invitation. It is organized at the Château de Grinzane, a few kilometers from Alba, in the Salle des Masques. Gourmets from all continents take part, in person or via satellite links. The price of the most expensive specimens can exceed 100,000 euros.
A HARVEST REQUIRING PATIENCE AND EXPERIENCE
The Alba truffle harvest period lasts approximately from September to December. The official opening date of the season is decided by the municipality of Alba and the Association of truffle growers. However, the white truffle can only be marketed from October. Despite the craze for this mushroom, production has been in constant decline since the middle of the 20th century. Two main reasons explain this decline. First, the surface area of truffle land tends to shrink because they are coveted for other uses: the planting of hazelnut trees and vines. Thus, in 25 years, 33% of truffle forests have disappeared. Then, the climatic conditions are no longer as favorable as before because the rainfall decreases. Consequently, the production has drastically decreased, making this mushroom even more rare and coveted.
AN ANCESTRAL HARVEST METHOD
Only the very keen sense of smell of an animal is able to detect the presence of a truffle buried in the ground. Cavage, that is to say the harvesting of truffles, is therefore generally carried out with a dog, and rather at night. Animals are trained from an early age to recognize this specific smell. Their toys, but also their mother's teats, are coated with truffle oil. In the Alba region, there is even a school dedicated to training truffle dogs. All breeds can be trained to seek out the white fungus, based on so-called positive reinforcement methods. Well trained, a dog can detect truffles that have reached the required degree of maturity. He will then start scratching the ground until he reaches the mushroom. His master then takes over so that the truffle is not damaged. He pulls her out of the ground and rewards his dog. In Italy, winemakers are required to purchase a specific permit from the town hall of their municipality of residence.
AN EXCEPTIONAL TRUFFLE: ITS TASTE AND OLFACTIVE CHARACTERISTICS
The quality Alba truffle is recognizable by its fine, smooth, sometimes velvety skin whose light yellow color can tend towards ocher, pinkish white or even grey. This color depends on the species of tree at the foot of which it developed. Its gleba (its flesh), traversed by multiple white veins, is in creamy white tones that can go as far as deep pink. It must be firm because softening indicates that the optimal maturity for tasting has been exceeded. Its size varies greatly: the smallest are like walnuts while the medium ones are the size of an apple. Its average weight is between 30 and 50 grams but it can, exceptionally, exceed one kilogram. The smell of white truffles, frank and tenacious, can contain notes of honey, lime blossom or hay. This very aromatic scent surpasses that of other truffles. When ripe, it contains alliaceous olfactory components. Its aromas are a subtle alliance of lightness and elegance.
AN INGREDIENT OF CHOICE FOR HIGH-END DISHES
The white truffle can be offered brushed or not. In this case, it is cleaned when using it. To do this, simply pass it under running cold water and brush it with a soft cloth.
Alexandre Dumas, in his "Grand Dictionnaire de la cuisine", compared the truffle to the "holy of holies" of gourmets. He even noted that some gourmets “prefer it to our black truffles from France” and “that it doesn't need to be cooked”. In particular, he suggests, as a recipe idea, heating oil with anchovy fillets then adding the truffles by sautéing them out of the heat.
"As for Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, in the "Physiology of Taste", he praises this mushroom so popular in his time.
The Alba truffle can only be eaten raw, cut into thin slices or grated into shavings. Plain, it is eaten in the form of strips delicately placed on slices of buttered bread or on toast. Grated, it is used to enhance risotto, polenta, gnocchi, scrambled eggs or a pasta dish, such as the traditional Piedmontese taglioni, in the shape of thin ribbons. The Tuber Magnatum goes harmoniously with vegetable fondues, beef carpaccios, foie gras, porcini mushrooms and scallops.
The white truffle of Alba is the star ingredient of the famous “Tournedos Rossini” recipe which combines a tasty tournedos with fresh foie gras and a white wine sauce. Some chefs use it to create original desserts such as the Black éclair, by Christophe Adam, rich in 75% Cuban dark chocolate, or even the truffle macaroon by Pierre Hermé. This truffle is also used to prepare sabayons, ice creams or rice pudding.
- What does white truffle taste like?
The white truffle has allium flavors, a powerful, characteristic and refined aroma.
- Where do white truffles grow?
Most white truffles for in the Alba region in Piedmont in Italy. On the other hand, the white truffle is a wild truffle, it is impossible to cultivate it.
- When to pick white truffles?
The period for picking the white truffle is the same as that of the black truffle. The season starts in November and ends in March.
- What is the price per kilo of white truffles?
The white truffle does not escape a very variable price rule depending on the season. On the other hand, it is the most expensive truffle in the world. It cannot be found below 3000 euros per kilo minimum. Generally this amount increases up to 6000 euros.
- Where to buy quality white truffles
There are several merchants that offer white truffles. To validate the quality of the truffle, you must first check its variety, which must be the tuber magantum pico. It is also possible to buy white truffles directly in the Alba region.
- What is the difference between white and black truffles?
The white truffle and the black truffle have only the name in common. Indeed one has an alliaceae taste and the other has notes of undergrowth and musk. The cost of white truffle is much higher than that of black truffle and their external appearance also differs. The black truffle has a black exterior reminiscent of a diamond and a black flesh veined with white. The tuber magnatum pico has an ocher and much smoother exterior appearance and its gleba is also very clear and veined with white. What brings these two truffles together is that they are two exceptional dishes.
Quel goût à la truffe blanche ?
Devant son prestige dû à son immense rareté, la truffe blanche possède un goût pouvant rappeler certains de nos aliments. En effet, sa saveur si puissante, caractéristique et raffinée peut rappeler les arômes de l’ail, de l’échalote ou encore du poivre. Selon les experts de la truffe, le goût de la Tuber Magnatum Pico serait incomparable par rapport à celui de ses consœurs.
Où poussent les truffes blanches ?
La truffe blanche d’Alba pousse essentiellement dans le nord-ouest de l’Italie, dans les Langhe, autour de la ville d’Alba, à l’état sauvage car il est encore impossible de la cultiver. Cependant, nous pouvons également la retrouver, de manière plus limitée, en Lombardie, Emilie-Romagne ou encore en Toscane. Cette variété de truffe affectionne les terrains particulièrement humides, proche de cours d’eau, aux pieds des saules, peupliers ou tilleuls.
Quand ramasser les truffes blanches ?
La période de récolte de la truffe blanche est sensiblement la même que celle de la Tuber Melanosporum, s’étendant approximativement entre septembre et janvier. Cependant, la date officielle d’ouverture de la saison est décidée par la municipalité d’Alba en collaboration avec l’Association des trufficulteurs. De plus, bien que la récolte puisse commencer en septembre, la truffe d’Alba ne peut être mise en vente qu’à partir du mois d’octobre.
Quel est le prix du kilo de la truffe blanche ?
La Tuber Magnatum Pico, comme toutes les autres truffes, possède un prix qui fluctue énormément selon différents facteurs comme la quantité ou encore la demande. Cependant, la truffe blanche d’Alba est la plus chère et prestigieuse des truffes au monde, avec un prix généralement minimum de 3000 euros le kilo. Il n’est pas rare que ce montant augmente jusqu’à 6000 euros. Pendant la foire de la truffe d’Alba, une vente aux enchères mondiale a lieu, accessible uniquement sur invitation, où certains spécimens de truffes blanches peuvent dépasser 100 000 euros.
Où acheter de la truffe blanche de qualité ?
La truffe blanche peut s’acheter auprès de sélectionneurs proposant de la truffe d’Alba, comme la Maison Henras. Pour être sûr qu’il s’agit d’une truffe qualité, il est primordial de toujours vérifier sa variété, en effet, cette dernière doit absolument être de la Tuber Magnatum Pico. Enfin, si vous êtes de passage en Italie et plus particulièrement dans le Piémont, il vous sera possible d’en acheter directement dans la région d’Alba.
Quelle différence entre truffe blanche et noire ?
La truffe blanche et la truffe noire n’ont en commun que le nom de truffe. L’une des distinctions majeures entre ces deux variétés réside dans leur utilisation : la truffe noire va conserver sa saveur lors d’une délicate cuisson, tandis que la truffe blanche va, elle, la perdre. De plus, elles se différencient par leurs qualités gustatives uniques, la truffe d’Alba étant réputée pour son goût alliacé si caractéristique, alors que la Tuber Melanosporum exhale des notes de sous-bois et de musc. Enfin, leur apparence visuelle diffère également : la truffe noire présente une peau noire et granuleuse, avec une chair noire ornée de veines blanches, a contrario, la Tuber Magnatum Pico arbore une surface ocre relativement lisse et une chair très claire marbrée de blanc.