Found mostly in the Perigord Noir, an area of southwest France, the black truffle is prized for its pungent flavor and aroma and is added to just about everything in this region of France. Often called black diamonds and dreadful looking, slices of them are placed under the skin of end of year holiday food like geese, chickens or capons, added to home-made fois gras, or grated over potatoes or eggs. Consequently, they are in demand during the days leading up to December 24th when larger quantities of the black truffle are sold more than any other time of the year. According to a New York Times article, the price for this black, subterranean mushroom is now about $1,200 per pound.
The up turn in price is the result of the down turn in harvest, according to the paper. A group of British Scientists have discovered a correlation between amount of rainfall and the size of the truffle harvest. Over the past several years, temperatures have been hotter in the Mediterranean basin and rainfall has declined.
Truffles have been eaten for centuries. Still rumored to be an aphrodisiac, the Catholic Church banned their consumption during the middle ages! They grow around the roots of oak and hazelnut trees and, when ripe, produce a strong scent. Pigs have traditionally been used to find the gnarly, black mushroom. They have a strong sense of smell and love truffles. All too often however, the pigs would eat the truffle before the hunter could harvest it. Pigs are large, strong and difficult to control. Today, trained dogs are more the norm; they are much easier to manage and don’t care for the taste.
During the trip to the Dordogne in June, 2013, we will visit our renowned truffle-hunting friend, Edward, on his property and learn the art of finding black truffles with his trained dogs. After our truffle hunt, we will have a glass of wine while tasting some delicious black truffle delicacies. Buon appetit!