Ounce for ounce, truffles are the most expensive food in the world. In December 2014 the largest truffle every found was sold at auction by Sotheby's. The bidding started at $42,500, and some considered it a bargain when the 3.93 pound fungus sold for $61,250.
Truffles are round, black, warty, and dusty. They grow mainly in France, and over the centuries they have become a favored ingredient in French cooking.
The best truffles are harvested in winter. They grow underground, and if you venture out into the French countryside in January you might spy a peculiar event. Imagine a sleepy farmer following his favorite pig through a stand of trees on a cold morning. The farmer waits patiently for the pig to squeal in delight when it scents a truffle. You see, pigs love truffles too. French farmers have used pigs for hundreds of years to harvest this most aromatic of foods. Of course pigs have a tendency to scarf down the tasty snack so dogs are often trained for this job today.
Even in France the truffle is becoming more and more difficult to find. This despite the fact that the French are planting groves of Oak trees in hopes of encouraging new growth. Unfortunately not every stand of trees produces a truffle crop. No one really knows why, but as this food grows more scarce the price gets steeper. You might want to try this delicacy now before it dwindles away into extinction.
Have You Tried Truffles?
Truffles are highly perishable. In just a few days the scent and flavor will be gone, so if you manage to get your hands on one don't save it for a rainy day. Imagine the horror of unwrapping your truffle only to find it shriveled and inedible. It is possible however to prolong the life of the truffle. Truffle butter is a good way to give your fungus some staying power. It also gives you more bang for your buck since a little truffle butter goes a long way.
The recipe couldn't be simpler really. Take one third of an ounce of finely chopped truffle and one pound of fresh butter. Fold the two ingredients together and put the mixture aside until the flavors mingle. The proportions are entirely up to you. Make a butter that suits your taste, but keep in mind that you can always add more butter later if you want a milder flavor. The reverse will not be possible. Use unsalted butter for the same reason. This delicious truffle butter can be frozen and enjoyed for up to a month.
Because fresh truffles are no longer at peak flavor by the time they make it to the US you might be better off sampling one of the prepackaged truffle butters on the market. You can find them at a fraction of the price of the fresh product. The best truffles are from Piemont so look for that name on the label. Beware of truffle oils and butters sold in the US. A few of them don't contain any real truffles at all. They're made with artificial flavoring.
Truffle butter is easy to use in the kitchen. No complicated French recipes are necessary. Just toss some with pasta or put a dollop on top of a perfectly cooked steak. How about truffle butter mashed potatoes? Delicious!