Truffles are one of those foods that you either love or hate, there is no middle. This extremely intense mushroom, which grows underground (most often between 5-20cm) looks like a tuber, and it's shape can be compared to a smaller potato. Stinky potato, that what the local residents called it, and it was mostly mixed into food for domestic animals, especially pigs. Ahhh…poor pigs!
The first records of truffles date back to the 5th century BC. to ancient Greece. Philoxen from Lefkada dedicates one of the poems in the work Symposium to the truffle, praising its intoxicating aromas and smells. The ancient Greeks didn’t know how truffles were created, moreover, Aristotle students quite confidently state that truffles are the product of lightning striking the mud. Today, however, it is clear to us that truffles require specific conditions for successful growth. White truffles live in symbiosis with the roots of holm oak, ash, elm and poplar, while black truffles grow in symbiosis with beech, hornbeam and pine. The richest habitats of the white truffle are the provinces of Piemonte in Italy and Istria in the Motovun forest zone. Istrian white truffles (Tuber magnatum pico) have an intense taste and smell and are highly prized, ripening from September to December. Black truffles (Tuber aestivum vitt) can be harvested almost all year round, and can usually be found up to 1200 meters above sea level.
How to find them?
Truffles relase a specific smell that is impossible for human senses to feel. That's why well-trained dogs are often the best friends of truffle hunters around the world. Dog training begins at an early age, where young puppies are acclimated to the smell of truffles with various games and methods. A well-trained dog during the truffle hunt; will use certain signs to show its owner the exact place
where the precious mushroom is, and the owner will give him his favorite treat for it. Any time of the day or night is suitable for going truffle hunting. You never know when a truffle will release its magical scent, which is exactly why going truffle hunting is always unique.
The oldest recipes for preparing truffles can be found in Apicius cookbook, the oldest known European cookbook. There we can find six recipes for cooked truffles, a recipe for wine sauce with truffles and a description of storing truffles in sawdust. We will not be guided by Apici culinary
knowledge, but in our own style, we will seek help from a local housewife. Her philosophy is less is more, and really, there is no need for a lot of ingredients, spices and experimentation. Here we let the main star shine in all its glory:
FUŽI* S TARTUFIMA:
*fuži is name for traditional pasta shape from Istria.
Preparation time: 30 min
Ingredients for 2 people:
- 200g of homemade pasta (fuži)
- 30g of butter
- 3 egg yolks
- 100g of Parmesan cheese
- Fresh truffle
Method: Cook homemade pasta for 2-3 minutes in boiling salted water. Make a cream of 3 egg
yolks, parmesan cheese and pasta cooking water.
Melt the butter in the pan, add the cooked pasta and gradually add the cream over a regulated fire (watch the temperature of the pan! Don't let cream into scrambled eggs). Before serving, grate the fresh truffle richly.
FUN FACT TIME:
- Pigs, dogs and goats can smell truffles, but nowadays trained dogs are mostly used for hunting.
- Truffle prices are huge! The more valuable, white truffle, reaches a price of €5,000 per kilogram, while the price of the less intense black truffle is around €600 per kilogram. Luckily, we only need a few dozen grams to feel happiness!
- Giancarlo Zigante found the officially largest white truffle in the world. This Guinness record holder weighed 1.31 kilograms, and its replica is in Livada, the world's truffle village.
- The best search dogs are sold for more than €20,000.
- By studying truffles, the chemical compound anandamide was observed. The same one that is found in mother's milk and is responsible for hunger in newborns.
- If you are in Istria at least one day, bring some truffle memories with you! Join us on our truffle hunting experience with our local family. After we find that natural gold, we prepare it together in a traditional way that our hosts will show us. And finally taste it! In a few hours of this experience, you can really experience the true taste of Istria.