Truffles – hunt for black diamonds

Truffles are one of the nature’s rare and seasonal treasures and delicacies. They are so fascinating and worth for hunting, even though they might not be found. With skilful hunter and dog however one might get lucky and find them.

Treasure from the ground, fresh, warty and muddy black truffle.

Truffles are different kinds of mushrooms, e.g. fungus. They live in a symbiotic relationship with several trees, mainly oak, hazelnut and pines. Truffles utilize mycelium when adsorbing nutrients, sucker and ingredients for photosynthesis. Soil is important and it must be well drained and alkaline. Truffles are nearly round, warty and the size varies from acorn up to 10 cm.
   The secret of the truffles lies in its rarity and aromas. Each variety has its own cologne that can be recognized when they are mature enough. The smell of a truffle could be described musky, nutty or like fresh beetroot. Taste is pungent and dominating.

Truffles live in symbiosis with oak tree.

Black Truffle is considered to be one of the best and very expensive variety. It production is mainly in Southern Europe, namely in France, Spain and Italy. The flavor of black truffles is less pungent and more refined than that of white truffles.

Black truffles with different sizes, and cut that shows the structure.

Hunting is co-operation with truffle dogs
While diamonds are girl’s best friend, for a man truffle dog is dearer when he is hunting black diamonds. Looking for truffles in open ground is difficult because they grow under the surface of ground up to 15‒25 cm deep. That is why nearly always hunt in carried out with specially trained dogs. Their sense of smell is million times better than men’s. Dogs are able to detect and sniff out the strong smell of mature truffles underneath the surface of the ground. The use of pigs is risky because of their natural tendency to eat any edible thing. In Southern Europe best times for finding truffles are between December and February. In Europe there are over 70 different species from white to dark.

Lagotto Romagnolo dogs are specie which is specially trained for truffles.

Gérald Calvier is very skillful and one of the best talented truffle hunters. Here he is surrounded with his vivid and eager truffle dogs.

Gérald has trained dogs to dig into the ground where ever they find the odors of truffles. Dogs exchange willingly their truffle for a piece of bread. Gérald must be alert otherwise truffle disappear to dog’s mouth!

When truffle is on sight dog is removed aside and hunter uses metal stick to dig out the treasure from the ground.

Truffle catch of two hours gives about one kilo of black truffles with value of 1000 ‒ 1500 euros!

Truffles are best au naturel
With truffles one can enjoy about pungent, different aromas and elegance. Generally truffles must be eaten uncooked and fresh, shortly after they have been harvested. Then the strength on flavors is strongest, because aromas decrease rapidly after they have been picked. Before using truffles they must be cleaned.

Practical and natural way is to wash truffles with water and brush them.

Truffles must retain their skin so to have the most of their value. That is why they are prepared just brushing them gently. Best way to utilize the strong finesse of truffles is to add it to dish in small quantities. They can be used by scraping, grating or slicing. The fungus is scraped or grated onto food and into sauces and soups just before eating. With veal, chicken, fish or pasta the entity is dressed with tiny sliced truffles. With soups and sauces truffles make perfect match with cream and cheese.

Creamy soup with scallops and scraped truffle.

Main dish consists of small ravioli and very tender lamb with thin sliced truffles, combined with aromatic white viognier wine.

Text and photos: Heikki Remes                                                                            

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