What is the truffle? According to the legend, the truffle is a special mushroom originated from a thunder of Zeus. Other people think it has aphrodisiac and magical powers appreciated by alchemists.
However, there is one thing we know for certain: everyone loves this delicious, sophisticated, expensive mushroom, with its unmistakable and penetrating aroma and especially its Italian version: the white truffle of Piedmont. Many people actually do not know what exactly it is, so we try to give them an answer.
Truffles belong to the Tuberaceae family of mushrooms. They are characterized by an underground fruity body and grow in the soil, near some trees and shrubs. Especially oaks, holm oaks, limes, hazelnuts and poplars.
How is the truffle made and where to find it
Truffle has a fatty mass, called glebe, covered by a bark, known as peridium. This mushroom – with the appearance of a tuber – consists of a large percentage of water, mineral salts, fibers and organic substances obtained from the trees to which it is bound.
The shape depends on the type of soil in which it grows. A round truffle is typical of a soft soil. A lumpy truffle originates from a hard ground with roots and stones. Another thing to know: the ripe truffle emanates a very strong scent to spread the spores and reproduce. But it is not all. Its pungent fragrance also attracts wild animals. How to find the truffle? It is picked with hands and identified with dogs trained for the purpose.
And it is the Italian law to establish it. You can imagine the motivations: it is about protecting the environment and the characteristics of the product. Instead, there are no restrictions on the breed type of dog to use for this specific activity. Yes, every truffle seeker can choose the dog he prefers.
Once the truffle harvest was made with piglets but this practice fell into disuse because the pigs were too gluttonous. In Italy, there are several species of truffle. Here, the most important: white truffle known as white Alba truffle, the black truffle, the black summer truffle, the bianchetto truffle, the hooked truffle, the ordinary black truffle.
As for the production of this rare mushroom, Italy is the first exporter in the world of white truffles, unique in terms of quality and quantity. But in Italy you can also find the other species.
Piedmont has a prominent role in spreading this treasure. And here we come to the point. How about going to discover the white truffle of Piedmont? Let’s start this journey.
Where are white truffles in Piedmont picked?
The Piedmont is a land of truffles. This region contains priceless jewels of taste. In this area there is the International Fair of white Alba truffle, the most famous type of truffle. But there are also the black truffle, the “Scorzone” ones, the hooked ones, the muscat and the brumal ones.
Where do truffles hide? Usually, it’s a secret that every truffle seeker only shares with his dog. The truffle harvest in Piedmont takes place in several areas: Monferrato, Langhe, Roero and the South Hills.
The main centers are: Alba, Bra, Asti, Montechiaro, Montà, Canale, Castagnito, Monforte d’Alba, Ceva, Mondovì and Aqui Terme. It is not easy to access truffle areas, because in most cases they are private property. They are considered almost sacred oases and handed down from generation to generation.
White Alba truffle
The white Alba truffle is the most prestigious and sought-after from internationally renowned chefs. Its scientific name is Tuber Magnatum Pico and its ripening times take place from October to late December.
It has oval spores, a smooth peel in soft yellow or greenish. The pulp, instead, goes from brown to hazel color, with shades of red and light veins. It emanates an intense scent that refers to garlic, hay, honey, mushrooms and wet ground.
The white Alba truffle grows in soft and soaked soils. The white truffle harvest period begins on 21 September 21 and ends on January 31. This typical treasure hunt takes place in forests free of truffle-grounds, in cultivated lands and in reforested areas for no more than 15 years.
This underground mushroom owes his fortune to Giacomo Morra, a local entrepreneur and truffle lover. In 1929, he made it a symbol of Alba Fair, an exhibition of the best picked truffles. It was a great success.
To contribute to the myth of Piedmont truffles, there is the custom to give the largest truffle to famous stars. In history, there is the great truffle that was offered to Rita Hayworth. Even today, every year, between November and December, the Fair of Alba attracts connoisseurs of the tasty mushroom from all over the world.
White truffle price
How much does white Piedmont truffle cost for those who want to taste it? It is very expensive. It is around 4 euros per gram, and the price is never fixed. Up to 15 grams it costs 2,800 euros per kilogram, while you have to pay 3,300 euro for pieces from 15 to 50 grams and 3,800 euros over 50 grams.
The price is determined by quality, shape, size and harvest period.
Experts believe the best time to find and pick them is December at the waning moon. These I listed are the prices in general; for white Alba truffle, at the moment, the price is around 3.500 euros per kilogram. It is important to be suspicious of low cost: low cost means generally low quality.
After the price, we try to figure out where to buy the white truffle. My advice? Purchase it in the harvest period from merchants holding the regional enrollment card. Before you finish spending, check to buy the species you want, check the cleaning – the holes must not be full of ground – the color must be original and unmodified with corn flour, the odor should be pleasant and the ripening right.
Typical recipes with truffles
I want to give you now some information about typical white truffle recipes in Piedmont and I want to explain to you how to clean the truffle before using it in the kitchen. Use a small brush under the tap water and let it dry for 10 minutes.
In addition, this white mushroom of Piedmont has not to be cooked and you have to serve it fresh and raw. Do not grate it – common mistake – but slice it with a specific tool with thin and sharp blades.
I know what you are thinking, “Okay, I understand how to clean and use it but how do I have to keep white truffles?” I tell you right away: in the fridge between 3 and 6 degrees of temperature. Place it in a glass jar wrapped in a cloth and well closed. Try not to freeze it, otherwise the truffle loses its features.
The white truffle of Piedmont is used as a seasoning and is perfect on eggs, cutlets and risottos. There are so many recipes to try. Just to name a few, you can cook noodles with white Alba truffle, fondue with white Alba truffle, cauliflower with white truffle. But now I want to take you to discover a recipe: croutons with white truffle of Alba.
Croutons with white truffle of Alba
- 50 grams of Alba white truffle
- 100 grams of butter
- 1 anchovy
- 1 clove of garlic
- Shredded parsley
- 4 slices of sliced bread
- Olive oil.
Wash the anchovy and wipe it. Then chop it together with garlic and parsley and, in the meantime, brush the truffle on. Then put in a saucepan 30 grams of butter with a few tablespoons of oil and combine the previous mixture, brown to low heat.
At this point, add the truffle in thin slices and continue to bake for 10 minutes in low heat. Now, cut the slices of sliced bread in two parts and fry them together with the remaining butter. Finally, pour over the white Piedmont truffle sauce. The croutons have to be eaten hot.
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Taste white truffle in Piedmont
The white truffle of Piedmont, a true delicacy for people that appreciate its unmistakable flavor and smell, is a flagship of Italy. Do you want to taste white Alba truffle in comfort? Get Piedmont on board a luxury car with a driver. In this way you will live not only a tasteful, but also visual and sensory experience. Now I leave space to your opinion.
Photo credit: Mortazavifar