Truffles have been revered for centuries by food aficionados for their transcendental quality; from the winter black truffle known as the Périgord traditionally found in southern France to the winter white truffle, sourced from Italy.
However, with so many low priced “truffle” products emerging, people are starting to wonder, “am I buying real truffle?”.
We thought we’d set the record straight, plus reveal a few more surprising truffle facts!
Myth 1 - Pigs Are Used To Hunt Truffles:
For centuries, pigs and truffles went hand in hand. Due to their sensitive snouts, ”truffle hogs” could easily identify the aromas in truffles, especially black truffles. However, they cannot be trained not to eat them!
The reality is, pigs barely resist taking a tasty bite of an aromatic truffle (or the truffle hunter's hand!), affecting both production volume and causing possible injury!
It stands to reason that pigs don’t offer a commercial or safe reason for hunters today and have not been used for many years. In Italy, the use of pigs in truffle hunting has been prohibited since 1985.
Most all dogs on the other hand, can be trained to hunt truffles because they also experience the world through scent. Training the dogs and ensuring they are positively rewarded for their work are crucial for hunters.
Our truffle dogs are part of the TRUBEL family; they’re loved and treated as friends and partners, not simply hunters.
Myth 2 - Truffles Are Overpriced
The price of truffle is dictated by several supply chain factors. To get them to our dishes within the optimum time to retain freshness is paramount.
Consider the process: growing (takes up to 10 years and no guarantees of success), cultivating, training, hunting, sorting, cleaning, product development and shipping. It requires intensive skill and labour at every step. Add into the mix, scarcity - they have an extremely long and difficult growing season and the price soon escalates.
Some of the wilder varieties such as the white truffle can be valued at an even higher premium than the black and white varieties as they are a lot more scarce.
If you’re looking for an “affordable” truffle; they don’t exist.
You may see some “garnishing” truffles which are somewhat removed from the authentic truffle we all adore here at TRUBEL. These garnishing truffles pack little aroma and flavour, therefore, beware of paying a premium for them. At TRUBEL we took the decision not to sell them because of their inferior quality.
Beware Of Inferior Truffles
The most popular truffle you’ll find widely available both in shops and online is the black summer truffle (Species: Tuber Aestivum Vitt.).
Not to be confused with the prized Black Winter Truffle, but most refer to it as the black truffle to sell at a premium, It’s often sold in raw format. These summer truffles are available for 6 months a year (April - September) and contain very little flavour. As champions of quality we will go all out and state they are flavourless. Therefore, we’ve taken a clear decision not to offer them for this reason.
Why Can I Buy Fresh Truffles During the Summer?
The truth is, summer truffles are available and widely used by sellers throughout the year to create inferior quality “truffle” products. By adding this ingredient into the product and adding additional artificial flavourings, it allows them to sell the product as a ‘truffle’ product. This is the reason for seeing cheap truffle imitations online and in shops all over the world.
The ultimate winner, is the seller!
If you’re curious, please check your cupboard for any of these oils, honeys, dressings and condiments and read the ingredients list! You may be surprised.
Myth 3 - Truffles Should Be Stored In Rice:
For those who know a thing or two about truffles, a truffle comprises between 75-77% water content.
What does rice do? It absorbs moisture; review the last time you dropped your phone in water and it stopped working…the solution was to pop it into a bowl of raw rice to absorb the water.
If you pop fresh truffles into rice, these little treasures will be sucked dry; it’s not a good idea because this will rapidly reduce their already short shelf life.
Beware of any brand that recommends the rice trick! You will lose your truffle fast and go back to look for more.
At TRUBEL we recommend buying the freshest truffle you can; we aim to dispatch our fresh truffles to customers within 3 days of them being hunted for you to consume within 5 days to provide the optimum shelf life.
Recommended Storage Conditions For Fresh Truffles
We recommend consuming the fresh truffle within 5 days of receiving your delivery, as long as they are: only handled with clean hands, wrapped individually in paper towel, placed in an airtight container, refrigerated, paper towel changed twice a day, container wiped clean every day, and truffle aired for 15mins a day.
Myth 4 - Truffle Oil Is The Closest It gets To Truffles:
Ready for a shocking fact? 99% of truffle oils don’t contain real truffle! You will encounter cheaper alternatives that contain the inferior black summer truffle, shockingly in dry format (recall a truffle is made of up to 77% water - imagine drying that?).
You may also see some companies claiming their truffle oil as an infusion. Wherever, “infusion” is used, it means a truffle extract or flavouring has been added to the carrier; in this case the oil.
Beware of these infusions as you will often be purchasing a product containing artificial flavouring!
Essentially, truffle oil is made with an artificial chemical created synthetically in a laboratory. There is nothing authentic about this except perhaps the extra virgin olive oil!
The chemical used is quite powerful with only a small quantity of approximately 1-2% required to produce a pungent “truffle” imitation.
A Trending Scam!
We’ve witnessed a recent trend where a sliver of ‘dried’ truffle equivalent to ‘0.1-0.5%’ of the product is added to a product to create the illusion of ‘real’ truffle.
Imagine being served truffle pasta with a speckle of truffle on it. The pasta dish you receive weighs 100g and a truffle oil is 100g, with 0.1% truffle in it. Imagine buying fresh orange juice and the label says ‘0.1% orange’ content?
The truffle used is the inferior / poor quality summer truffle or white spring truffle which costs very little and not the black or white truffle we proudly offer at TRUBEL.
Check Behind The Label
Sadly it’s you the consumer who is left to do their due diligence and check what’s really being purchased.
Here are a few things to consider when purchasing a truffle ingredient:-
- Check the labels on the truffle oils you buy. Does it contain the best quality black or white truffle?
- Ask why the cost of a truffle oil or truffle honey remains fixed across the season. If real truffles are being used, the price of the ingredient will adjust inline with market prices.
- The same rule applies to other truffle products i.e. chips (crisps), hot sauce, mayo etc. Unfortunately these products will always contain chemicals used to imitate the real truffle.
Myth 5 - Truffles Can Be Eaten Within 14 Days:
If you wish to experience the wonderful umami flavours and aromas of fresh black and white truffles, buy small quantities and consume them within 5 days.
From a food safety perspective, you can consume a fresh truffle after 14 days but this delicate natural treasure will deteriorate as soon as it’s hunted.
Truffles lose at least 2% of their water and hence their gastronomic value per day, so careful storage is essential.
From our grounds, we recommend consumption within 5 days for the optimum experience!
Why do some brands recommend 14 days?
The truffle most consumers purchase has quite a journey. They are:
1) shipped with 100s of kilos of truffles to warehouses
2) dispatched to 50+ chefs to be sorted and disposed of. Yes the chefs get first dibs! Consumers get the rejections!
3) then returned to a storage warehouse
4) then listed online as ‘available’
5) then shipped to the consumer after another 2 days!
If customers keeps said truffle for a few more days / weeks, there's a great risk to quality and the true truffle taste sensation. The smell of plastic burning you get from truffle oil is very similar to that of a fresh truffle that has been around for over 10 days!
The reality, for many brands is, it’s impossible to deliver a fresh truffle within 5 days of being hunted.
This is especially if the truffle is sourced from Australia (a minimum 2 day voyage). For this reason we don’t source from Australia but from South America during the Southern Hemisphere season (July - August).
Our policy is only to order from local European / South American sources as our customers and consumers need them.
We hope this short article has helped dispel a few myths about fresh truffle and ingredients claiming to be truffles.
If you have questions, please reach out to us here.