Périgord Black Truffle
The Périgord black truffle is found in the south of France and is the most fragrant of all truffles. It is the product of a terroir, a fungus and a tree.
What you need to know
Truffles were eaten in ancient times with spices, but only re-emerged in cooking during the Renaissance. It was toward the end of the 19th century that they became the culinary jewel we know today. Two thirds of the world's Périgord black truffles are produced in France, and Vaucluse produces more than any other department. The truffle is an underground fungus that belongs to the ascomycete family. It develops in symbiosis with the tree it grows next to, so each organism benefits from the other. The truffle thrives on the sugars that it draws from the tree and in return, the fungus acts on the tree's roots by boosting its ability to absorb mineral salts and water from the soil. However, only some species are suitable: the truffle prefers holm oaks, pubescent oaks and hazels, but also likes lindens and sweet chestnuts. The truffle only grows on chalky, shallow, well-drained soils.
As humans cannot distinguish the smell of truffles growing underground, they are gathered with help from an animal with a finer sense of smell: a pig, truffle dog (trained to recognize truffles) or, believe it or not, flies (one particular variety lays its eggs near truffles).
When used as a condiment, its nutritional value is negligible, although truffles do contain significant quantities of vitamins B2, B3, B5, D and K.
How to use
The fragrance of the truffle is volatile, so it needs to be stored in a sealed container, in the fridge, possibly also with a sheet of kitchen towel to protect it from moisture. Even better, store your truffle in uncooked rice, which will absorb the humidity and the fragrance of the truffle. The rice then makes a wonderfully fragrant accompaniment. It can also be stored in the freezer for 6 to 12 months.
A fresh truffle should be gently scrubbed before use. Then, cut it into fine slices with a mandolin or crush it with a fork to release all the aromas. It can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Canned truffles should be used in hot dishes only.
Savory: With eggs, in a mash, in rice, pasta, in a Brie de Meaux PDO... Garlic also enhances its aroma, as does Parmesan.
Sweet: the pastry chef Pierre Hermé has devised a truffle ice cream and there are also chocolates flavored with truffle
Wines: best with mature wines that won't be overwhelmed by the aromas of the truffle.
Whites: Meursault PDO, Riesling d'Alsace, a white Hermitage AOC, Puligny-Montrachet AOC
Reds: Cahors AOC, Pomerol AOC.