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How to keep truffle fresh

Updated on April 8, 2011

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO KEEP TRUFFLE FRESH?

They live their lives in the floors of ancient forests hiding in the roots of majestic trees waiting to be found. But when they are plucked from their earthy homes white alba truffles, like any other type of truffle, go off very quickly. The white alba truffle is the most expensive ingredient in the world with a world record price of £165000 for a specimen truffle. Truffles are a prized cooking ingredient for three reasons.

Their aroma, their taste and their exclusivity.


The pungent aroma of Black Winter Truffle
The pungent aroma of Black Winter Truffle | Source

AROMA, TASTE and EXCLUSIVITY

AROMA

Their aroma is due to the chemical compound they emit. This is a sulphur compound that is very similar to the pheromones of female pigs. This is actually one of the reasons why pigs were used to hunt for them.

TASTE

The difference in taste is quite vastly different between black winter truffles which have a pungent mushroom quality and white truffles that are often described as “diamonds of the kitchen”.

EXCLUSIVITY

Their exclusivity is primarily driven by the difficulty in finding them. Nestling in the roots of trees you need a trained dog (It used to be pigs but they tended to bite and scoff all the truffles) and local knowledge where to find the truffles. Some varieties have been cultivated to an extent and there are plenty of companies on–line offering inoculated trees. However any attempt to cultivate is a 7 year wait to see if your truffles will successfully fruit.


LOSING AROMA DAY BY DAY

The rate at which truffles give off their aroma is very, very, fast.  The truffle is emitting the chemical scent to attract animals to their underground location.  That is why they are so pungent and it’s why their aroma is emitted as such a fast rate once they are unearthed.  It also means that shelf life of a truffle is usually around 1 week from being in the ground to on the plate.

This makes truffle distribution a tricky business, especially in the UK where the truffle has the added transport time from Italy, France or Spain over to the UK in the first place.

TRUFFLE HUSBANDRY TECHNIQUES

Truffles have been used since ancient Egyptian times so there are a plethora of techniques for storing them the one common trend between all truffle storage techniques is the need to keep truffles cool until you use them.


PAPER TOWEL

Other people suggest storing your truffle in kitchen towel in a Tupperware and changing the towel every couple of days. This removes the excess moisture and avoids any contaminations.

VACUUM PACKING

With advances in science, there are new ways to store fresh truffle. By cleaning the surface of the truffle with a jet of carbon dioxide (essentially clean air) to ensure any impurities are removed and then vacuum packing the truffle you are able to keep it fresh for longer periods of time. Some people believe this can improve the shelf life by up to 4 weeks, although this is not yet scientifically proven.

WAX

Before airplanes could get fresh truffles to the UK in hours, they were dipped in wax for the long journey across Europe. It’s hard to imagine that they will have had much aroma left by the time they arrived even with their wax jackets!

INFUSIONS

Traditional European truffle husbandry techniques have included storing them in rice, pasta or other dried goods to try to transfer the aroma being lost by the truffle to the other ingredients. This works particularly well if you are making a truffle risotto and can store your truffle in the risotto rice for a few days before cooking.


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