What Does Black Truffle Taste Like & Why Are They So Expensive
If you’ve not tried out black truffles, your palette is missing out. Although they are a real treat that everyone should try at least once, a fresh truffle is pricey and a rarity.
Nevertheless, fresh truffles are mouth-watering and infuse a bold, earthy, Umami flavor to any dish. In this guide, we’ll answer one of the most commonly asked questions, ‘what does a black truffle taste like?’ You’ll also get to understand the reason behind their high price point. Read on!
What Is a Truffle?
It’s an edible fungus that’s regarded as a delicacy. Truffles are usually served in small quantities at high-end restaurants, whereby the Umami flavor enhances their vast assortment of dishes. With lighter or darker skin, truffles are lumpy and small.
If trying out a truffle for the first time has been on your bucket list for a while, it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s different from a chocolate truffle that gets its name from the close resemblance to the mushroom. However, that’s where the similarity ends. When it comes to flavor, they are as different as day and night.
Contrary to other types of edible mushrooms, truffles grow underground, usually in a symbiotic relationship with tree roots. Truffles thrive in particular environments, usually in well-drained alkaline soil. Truffles fall into two main categories.
These have an earthier and subtler taste that makes them blend in perfectly with a vast assortment of dishes and sauces. While black truffles are pricey, they are cheaper than their white counterparts.
The best black truffles are typically found in the South West region of France on oak trees, and their harvest season starts in September and stretches to December. Compared to white truffles, they have a longer shelf life. Nevertheless, they still require particular environmental conditions to flourish.
Since they are more aromatic, white truffles are pricier and can be consumed raw. The best ones are found in the Piedmont region of Italy. As such, it’s not surprising that the fungus is widely celebrated as an annual truffle festival in the La Marche part of North-East Italy. White truffles also grow in Central Italy and have been found in nearby Croatia.
Compared to black truffles, the white counterparts have a shorter harvest season that runs from December to the end of January. While there are other truffle varieties, such as Oregon truffles, the black truffles of France and white truffles of Italy are the most popular. These have the most potent flavoring, so they are soaring in popularity despite the challenging growing conditions.
It’s worth noting that truffles have a short shelf life which means you can’t store them for long as you would other mushrooms species. Most choose to cook with truffle oil that infuses the bold flavor but without the pricey cost of truffles. Nonetheless, while it’s a cheaper option, truffle oil can still be pricey.
Why Are Black Truffles Expensive and Are They Worth The Price?
Pound for pound, there’s no denying that black truffles are one of the world’s priciest foods. That’s because of the challenge in growing them, how rare they are, and the storage difficulty. Harvesting truffles is no easy feat which also explains why they cost as much as they do.
At first glance, it’s hard to understand the hype behind black truffles as they are not aesthetically pleasing. After all, they come from underground, and they look like it. Nonetheless, their unique appearance is one of the things that set them apart from the pack.
Given that they’re inconspicuous, finding black truffles is no easy feat. They are hard to spot with the naked human eye, which is why they must be sniffed out. Conventionally, pigs are the go-to for smelling and finding black truffles underground. However, there’s one setback to this foraging technique. Pigs are liable to consume the truffles.
Nowadays, dogs are usually trained to pick up on the smell and won’t eat the truffles due to their carnivorous nature. Once the black truffles have been found, they must be carefully harvested to avoid damage which is a tedious process.
Locating truffles is no easy feat because they are difficult to grow. They are picky about their environment, thriving only in well-drained soil and mild weather. Furthermore, you’ll only find black truffles growing under hazel, oak, and pine trees for up to 7 years before they are ready for harvest. When the harvesting season rolls around, it’s short.
Once they’ve been found and harvested, they must be sold quickly due to their short shelf-life, only lasting up to 2 weeks when stored in optimal conditions. Although farmers try to cultivate black truffles, it can be a tricky process because of their temperamental nature. That leads to their high price point. For those that gravitate towards the bold flavor, the cost is worth it.
It’s this demand that drives up the cost. Contrarily, those that don’t fancy the taste fail to understand the cost behind such smelly mushrooms when there are other cheaper grocery-store species.
What Does Black Truffle Taste Like?
Since the bold aroma preludes to the taste, black truffle tastes musky, pungent, and earthy, which is why it’s regarded as Umami. It’s reminiscent of fish, meat, and broth, making it an ideal meat substitute. Black truffles uniquely evoke the taste of butter, olives, mushrooms, and garlic.
Black Truffle Oil
Although truffles are prohibitively pricey for most people, black truffle oil is a more affordable way to infuse the flavor into the food. It is a food-grade oil that’s infused with truffle for the luxurious Umami taste. Black truffle oil is made when tiny pieces of black truffles are infused into olive oil and left to infuse. The flavor will seep into oil, giving you an easier way to add a punch of truffle into various dishes.
Granted, black truffle oil is a costly purchase; it’s more cost-effective than sourcing and purchasing fresh truffles. Furthermore, it has a longer shelf life granting you free rein to infuse the truffle flavor into most of your meals. Nonetheless, exercise caution when buying truffle oil as some brands are chemically enhanced to mimic the truffle flavor rather than contain small pieces of truffles.
While it might taste like black truffles on the surface, it doesn’t accurately recreate the same level of richness as the real deal. With black truffle oil, a high price point is indicative of the quality. Therefore, always check out the ingredients before buying to ensure the oil contains real truffles. Although a small bottle of black truffle oil is pricey, keep in mind that a little goes a long way.
What Is Black Truffle Salt?
Similar to the oil, black truffle salt is infused with tiny flakes of black truffles. The bold, earthy aroma of the truffles penetrates the salt when they are sealed together. As with truffle, avoid chemically enhanced truffle salt made using chemicals to mimic the taste but lack the true aroma. Authentic black truffle salt is peppered with real truffle flakes.
How Do You Purchase Black Truffles?
If you’re interested in buying truffles, begin by looking for harvesting seasons. That’s because truffles are rich in flavor and aroma right after harvesting and begin losing their flavor quickly. To purchase the best truffles from specialty grocery stores and high-end restaurants, start looking in December.
If you have the chance to buy whole black truffles, tread carefully. They are usually sold in ounces, with the heaviest being the priciest. If you believe you’re getting a steal by purchasing a large-sized black truffle at a seemingly affordable cost, then there’s a high likelihood an insect has nibbled on it.
Carefully inspect a black truffle before you buy it. Freshly harvested ones might still have dirt and debris clinging to the crevasses, giving an inaccurate weight. Most importantly, don’t hesitate to sniff the black truffle. It should have a bold, earthy, mouth-watering aroma.
Truffle salt and oil, on the other hand, are easier to buy as they are available year-round. However, always seek out reputable retail stores to make sure you’re getting the real deal rather than a chemically enhanced version.
How Do You Cook Black Truffles?
As an ingredient that shines on its own, you can keep it simple when using black truffles in various dishes such as pasta.
- Toss fresh pasta in butter lashings and a splash of the cooking water
- Next, add a heavy grating of Parmesan and shave some black truffle on top before lightly drizzling truffle oil
- Allow it to sit for up to 15 minutes before you can enjoy the rich, mouth-watering flavor
Black truffle is best cooked lightly. Therefore, you can gently heat it alongside a mushroom risotto. You can prolong the life of the truffle with a jar of risotto rice. Cooking it will amplify the bold flavor.
To spice up a breakfast classic, mince black truffle and serve it with scrambled eggs or an omelet.
Can You Consume Raw Black Truffles?
Yes! They are safe for consumption in their raw form. Once you grate them onto the end of your plate, the natural heat of the food is all that’s required. It’s worth keeping in mind that excessive cooking of black truffles will kill the flavor.
How Do You Cook With Black Truffle Oil?
As bold-flavored oil, truffle oil is best used at the end of each dish. Add a drizzle to your meal before you serve it for an Umami delight. You can do so with most meals such as pizza, risotto, stir-fries, eggs, pasta, chicken, steak, asparagus, broccoli, lobster, soup, stew, and polenta.
Once you try it, you’ll likely be on the quest for new ways to channel your inner Martha Stewart. You can also incorporate it into your preferred vinaigrette to spice up your salad. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way, so use the black truffle oil sparingly.