It is said that these precious nuggets used to reach gods and witches, while today most of them end up in gourmet specialities for ‘ordinary mortals’.
Truffles are a variety of edible fungi growing underground, mostly besides roots of trees such as oak, beech, poplar, willow and elm. They are shaped like tubers and they are often compared with potatoes when it comes to their appearance. They usually grow from the size of a cherry up to the size of an apple, but sometimes significantly bigger specimens are found (like the famous Zigante Millenium weighing 1310 g). In the culinary world the most popular are the two basic varieties: black and white truffle.
Truffles are picked solely after they are ripe. The search or the so called hunting is led by a professional truffle hunter, while the truffles are found by trained dogs with a subtle sense of smell. In the past this was done by pigs, but nowadays this is rare. Namely, even though pigs are very skilled in finding truffles, all they find they often eat by themselves.
Truffles can also be described as gourmet fungi because their fragrance is tart, intensive, earthy securing the food a unique flavour. They are used in small quantities which are still sufficient to turn every dish into a gourmet experience. It is not easy do describe the truffles aroma, and thus associations vary from “forest floor” and “chocolate and soil mix” to “old socks” and they are often accompanied with the epithet of eroticism. Regardless of the varying comments, the pursuit for truffles is always multiply higher than the demand, and thus the price can reach incredible 2000 Euro per kilogram
The Istrian white truffle is one of the most renowned in the world, and gourmets and culinary connoisseurs are increasingly attracted by black truffles as well.
The discovery of the Istrian white truffle occurred some 80 years ago with the development of Parezana (narrow-gauge railway) which connected Poreč and Trieste. At that time a private company, located around the very centre of vintage – Livade, started to exploit and sell truffles. Namely, the white Istrian truffle can be found in almost all valleys of the region, but most truffles can be found in the forests stretching in the river Mirna valley.
Due to the continuous work on improving their status, Istrian truffles are increasingly strengthening their position in the preparation of premium culinary specialties arising from traditional local dishes.
After picking, every fresh truffle must be thoroughly cleansed from dirt with a soft brush (like a soft toothbrush) and with running cold water. Truffles are sensitive organisms which are dehydrating and losing their scent so it is best to consume them as soon as possible. Since moisture is the biggest enemy of truffles, before and between uses, it is best to wrap the dry truffle in a clean paper towel, close it tightly in a jar and store it in the refrigerator door. With daily changes of the paper towel, this storage method guarantees a high quality of the esteemed white truffle for approximately one week, and of the black truffle for approximately two weeks. When the truffle becomes soft, it must be consumed right away because that is a sign that it reaches its final ripeness.
People were always afraid of the unknown and the different, so it is no wonder that there have been various stories about truffles since ancient times…but it is time to set the record straight
· Truffles are neither food for witches nor an animal species nor a mineral, as it was believed in the past.
· Truffles are neither a tuber nor a soil disease but fungi living in symbiosis with trees.
· Truffles do not appear after a lightning hits moist soil, as believed by the ancient Greeks.
· The white truffle does not grow in symbiosis with any type of plant, only rare plants enjoy that privilege.
· The white truffle is a spontaneous plant: there are no truffle farms nor can they grow in all types of soil.
· Truffles can be smelled by pigs, dogs and goats, but today mostly trained dogs are used for hunting.
· The Istrian white truffle can be found solely from September to January.
· Truffles can be searched during daytime as well, not just at night.
· Old Greeks and Romans were using truffles as a specialty, aphrodisiac and medicine.
· The white truffle is best if consumed right away and no later than within ten days.
· The white truffle loses all its characteristics by freezing, it ferments in oil and loses its flavour and scent in pickle.
· You do not peel nor eat the whole fresh truffle, it is best when grated in thin leaves.
· The truffle is also called the kitchen diamond, the black queen, the diamond of poor countries, the fragrant nugget and the black pearl.
· In the Middle Ages monks were forbidden to eat truffles for fear that they would forget their vocation.