You’re at a fancy party and you’ve come across a lot of unique foods on the snack table. You might see high-class items like caviar waiting for you to indulge in, and you might also come across slices of strange-looking mushrooms. If you’ve never seen a truffle before, you might have no idea what to expect when you actually taste it!
On the other hand, you might find yourself with a rare opportunity to purchase fresh truffles, or you might even be given frozen or jarred truffles or truffle products for a holiday or special occasion. If that happens, you might be completely lost as to what to do with them. It’s okay—not a lot of people have the chance to cook with truffles, and many people never have a chance to even taste one.
If you want to know more about what to do with truffles you’ve got on hand or how to buy them for the next time you want to test out your cooking skills on something unique, read on. This article is here to help you understand everything there is to know about truffles, from where they’re grown to how you can find them, as well as ways you can use them and what they taste like.
By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll be a truffle expert!
What are Truffles?
What exactly is a truffle? You probably already know that a truffle is a type of mushroom and that it’s very rare and tends to be expensive. But what is it really?
There are a few different types of truffle. If you’re wondering what is a fresh truffle, you first need to learn a little bit about the different types that are available.
- White truffles – These are the rarest and most expensive truffles in the world. They sell for high prices and have a unique garlic-like flavor that makes them very appealing. True white truffles come from France and Italy, and the most valuable ones can be found in Alba.
- Black truffles – Winter black truffles are much more expensive than summer black truffles. When buying a black truffle, it’s important to pay attention to where it comes from. Oregon and Chinese truffles are also black but don’t fit into the same category of quality as European black truffles. Real black truffles are sometimes called Perigord truffles.
- Whitish truffle – These are not true white truffles, but they are related. These truffles don’t have the kind of flavor that comes with a real white truffle, but they can still fetch a pretty good price in most markets. It doesn’t have as strong of a smell as its more expensive counterpart.
- Pecan truffle – These are the United States based truffles that come from the roots of pecan trees in the Southern US. They used to be considered a garbage plant, and sometimes a pest, but they have recently begun to show up in restaurants throughout the country. They don’t have much value on the worldwide truffle market, however.
So what makes a truffle a truffle? They’re different from mushrooms in that they’re found in different locations and aren’t as plentiful as mushrooms. It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between what is a real truffle and which ones are fake, and a lot of times, the difference really comes down to the price. A real truffle will never be cheap! It’s also much more likely to have a strong, pungent smell and flavor in comparison to a normal mushroom. A truffle will always be found growing in the roots of trees, and will never grow simply on the ground like most mushroom varieties. It also won’t grow on the trees themselves.
To find more information about what are truffles and why are they so expensive, read on!
Where do Truffles Come From?
Before you can learn more about truffles, you first need to understand what are truffles and where do they come from.
But what are truffles found in the ground? They are a type of fungus that grows just beneath the soil on the roots of certain types of trees. If you’re wondering about where do truffles come from, the answer usually lies in the trees themselves! Without the right type of tree, you simply can’t get truffles. Truffles usually grow on hazelnut and oak trees, but they can also be found on beech and poplar trees in some instances. When it comes to finding out where can truffles be found, you first have to go to the woods.
But where do you find truffles in the world? Most truffles can be found in Europe. The widest variety of truffles grows in France and Italy, with some other parts of Europe coming in close behind. Many of these specimens can be found in the countryside, growing wild on trees that have been a part of the terrain for a long time. More and more, however, truffle farmers have started to grow hazelnut and oak trees in the hopes of encouraging more truffle growth. When asking yourself, “Where do truffles come from?” the answer depends a lot on the type of truffle you’re looking for.
When you’re looking for information on white truffles, where they grow can be limited. Most good quality white truffles grow in Alba. Black truffles are a little bit more abundant, but they’re still pretty rare and limited to Italy and France. There are other types of truffles, such as Oregon black truffles, which can be found outside of Europe. Chinese truffles also grow in some parts of the world, but the types that don’t come from Europe are not considered true, valuable truffles, even though they may taste very good.
You may be asking yourself, “Where can I find truffles?” If you’re wondering about going out and hunting them for yourself, you may be out of luck. Unfortunately, Europe is one of the only places where truffles grow in nature, and even if you happen to find them there, it’s usually illegal to pick them yourself. Of course, if you’re wondering about where can you find truffles in stores, you might have more luck. You can find them in some specialty cooking stores, as well as through various websites that will be listed further on in this article.
Now that you know the answer to what is a truffle and where are they found, you can read on and learn more about these tasty rarities.
What are Truffle Products Made Of?
Truffle products are sometimes mistakenly referred to simply as truffles themselves. A lot of times, buyers wonder, “What is a truffle made out of?” In reality, these buyers are actually wondering what goes into truffle products, and how much of those products are actually made from real truffles. This is a very good question, and it’s necessary to understand all about truffle products if you plan to go shopping for them soon.
If you’re wondering what are truffles made from, the answer begins with their harvesting. As you now know, truffles come from the roots of certain types of trees. When they’re harvested at the peak of their seasons, they have a lot of flavors and are packed with nutrients that make them a very widely desired culinary ingredient. The answer to the question “what are black truffles made of” may be a little different than white truffles. Black truffles are generally a little bit larger than white truffles, although not always, and have a firmer texture in most instances. Their skin is also bumpier than that of a white truffle.
The next step toward understanding what is a truffle made of is to know how it’s graded and packaged. Truffle products are not made from the highest quality pieces of the truffle. Truffles are graded based on their weight, appearance, smell, and skin. When a truffle doesn’t pass the tests, it’s set aside and used for making truffle butter, truffle oil, jarred truffles, or truffle shavings. These are the lower quality pieces of truffle you can expect to find in these products.
Finally, learning about what are truffles made out of ends with a close examination of truffle based products. Truffle oil, for example, is not always made of real truffles. Sometimes it is, but often, affordable truffle oil is actually olive oil that’s been infused with flavorful black truffles. Truffle butter, on the other hand, usually contains pieces of truffle, but it might not always. In some cases, it’s also an infusion.
Of course, while it’s important to know what are truffles made of, there’s a lot more that goes into truly understanding the truffle and everything that goes along with it. Read on to learn more about truffles, from their taste to their grading, and everything in between.
What Do Truffles Taste Like?
A lot of times, people who have never sampled a truffle before wonder, “What is a truffle and what does it taste like?” It can be difficult to understand the flavor of a truffle, especially if you’ve never tried anything like it before, and putting it into words can be a complicated matter! However, before you can purchase a truffle, you should have a solid understanding of what does a truffle taste like, to be sure you’re spending your money on something you really want to eat in the first place.
Before you can understand the taste of a truffle, you should ask, “What do truffles smell like?” The smell of a truffle is very closely linked with its taste, which is true of most types of food. Truffles tend to have a very pungent odor, which smells a lot like the tree they grow on and the earth around them. Pigs and dogs are both very good at finding this smell, but people may have a hard time picking it out from the smell of the woods around them.
When asking what do truffles taste like, you can start with the woody, natural, earthy smell that comes from them, and add to it. This is a good baseline for just about any type of truffle flavor, but for white truffles, imagine the flavor of garlic on top of all these other tastes. White truffles are very garlicky and strong when they’re ripe.
Black truffles, on the other hand, taste like chocolate and red wine underneath the layers of muddy earthen flavor. If you’re wondering what does truffles taste like, it completely depends on the type of truffle you’re sampling. From there, the season during which the truffles grow even plays a part in changing the flavor a little bit. Summer truffles, for example, never have as strong of a taste as winter ones.
So what does truffle taste like when it’s put in food? White truffles bring that garlic flavor to any dish, even if you just sprinkle them over the top. Black truffles, on the other hand, add layers of texture and flavor to meals, and can even sometimes make a food taste a little bit meaty and robust.
How are Truffles Used?
There are several different ways you can learn about what to do with truffles. Of course, most of the time, you’ll probably be cooking with the truffles, but there are many different uses you might not have ever thought of. Even when it comes to cooking, you can find out a lot about what are truffles used for, and incorporate your new ideas into the foods you plan to make with this special ingredient.
- One of the most common ways truffles are used is in cooking. When you have a black truffle, it’s a little easier to understand what do you do with truffles. These truffles can be grated or sliced, and can easily be cooked into just about anything. When you add them to prepared dishes, they bring a savory flavor that’s similar to mushrooms, but much more elaborate and intricate. There’s nothing quite like eating a black truffle when it’s cooked along with an entrée.
- But if you have a white version, what do you use truffles for then? These truffles are a little more delicate, and they can’t stand up to heat very well. At most, they can be heated through, but cooking can cause them to lose their flavor and become tough and hard to chew. The best way to use a white truffle is to simply grate it over food when you’re done preparing it. You can also slice these truffles and serve them raw as a tasty treat all on their own.
- What is a truffle used for when it’s not in food? You might be surprised to find out that truffles have recently begun showing up in skin care products! These products can be very expensive, but they are designed to reduce signs of aging and make skin look younger and healthier than ever before. Many people swear by the effects of truffles on the skin, and many are willing to pay top dollar to get them.
How are Truffles Judged?
When choosing the right truffle from a physical store or vendor, you can easily learn to spot the ones you want to bring home when you pay attention to the ways in which truffles are judged. Truffles all tend to have the same good properties, as well as the same flaws and problems to look for when it comes to shopping for quality specimens. Even purchasing packaged truffles can be easier when you know what you’re looking for ahead of time.
- When shopping for truffles, first look at them. If the truffle looks very dirty or severely dented, you might want to put it back. However, it’s important to remember that all truffles are going to be dirty and have some holes and indentations, and this is normal. You just don’t want to choose one that’s overly damaged.
- Pick up the truffle and see how heavy it feels. Does the weight seem relevant to the size of the truffle? If it’s too light, this might mean it’s already drying out or rotting inside, which makes it undesirable. On the other hand, if it’s very heavy, it might be filled with dirt or otherwise altered to make it weigh more, thus increasing the asking price.
- Sniff the truffle. Depending on the type of truffle you’re looking for, you might need a very different smell. Black truffles tend to smell like red wine, earth, and chocolate, while white truffles have more of a garlic smell. You never want to smell ammonia coming from your fresh truffles.
- Squeeze the truffle gently. You don’t want the truffle to have much give. It should be firm, which shows that it hasn’t started to dry out or rot on the inside. Truffles that are extremely hard might not be good, but you aren’t looking for a lot of softness when you give the truffle a squeeze.
- If you’re buying a packaged product, check the label carefully. Truffle oil, for example, can be called truffle oil even if it doesn’t contain any actual truffles or come from truffles at all! Be very selective about choosing the products you buy, and remember that something that’s very cheap probably isn’t going to have any real truffle in it. Truffle butter should always contain some pieces of actual truffles, and of course, jarred and tinned truffles should be real, even if they are lower-quality truffle pieces.
How Much Do Truffles Cost?
One of the most common questions people tend to ask when first thinking about truffles is “what are truffles and why are they so expensive?” That’s a valid thing to wonder! If you’re spending that much money on something you’re just going to eat, it’s important to understand why it costs so much in the first place. Different types of truffles can come in a wide range of prices, and when it comes down to it, the more expensive truffles really are the better choices when it comes to quality and flavor.
So why are white truffles so expensive? These are the priciest truffles on the market, and it all comes down to how difficult they are to find. Of course, there are different types of white truffle, but the authentic Alba truffles from Europe are the most widely prized and desired truffles in the world. These tend to run upwards of $275 per ounce, at least, depending on where you purchase them. Because they are so hard to find and there are never very many harvested in a single truffle season, these truffles have a very lofty price tag.
That’s all well and good, but why are black truffles so expensive then? They are easier to find, and with so many varieties of black truffle available, it’s not too hard to find some that are pretty affordable. If you’re looking for good quality black truffles, however, you can still expect to spend anywhere from $30 to $100 per ounce, depending on the variety you choose. Oregon truffles are more affordable than those grown in Europe, and Chinese truffles, which are not very desirable, are some of the cheapest.
But why do truffles cost so much in general? It all has to do with how hard they are to harvest. They’re hard to grow and even harder to find, and it can be tough to pick them at the perfect time to ensure they have a lot of flavor without being too ripe. If you want to save some money, you can pick up some truffle-based products, like butter, oil, or shavings. Jarred and tinned truffles and truffle pieces usually run around $40 a package, making them a much more affordable choice if you can’t find it in your budget to buy whole, fresh truffles. You can expect to find flash-frozen truffles at about ¾ of the cost of their fresh counterparts, as well.
Best Truffle Brands
There are a handful of excellent truffle brands you should always consider when you’re shopping for the perfect specimen. Unfortunately, in the world of truffles, it can be hard to find a company that supplies quality products without trying to skimp on the truffles themselves. You might end up purchasing truffles from a supplier that lies about where they come from or tries to sell you a truffle with lots of dirt-filled holes to weight it down instead of being honest about the weight and size. When you shop from one of these well-known truffle brands, however, you’ll always get a good product from a quality supplier every time.
- Urbani – Urbani is easily one of the most well-known names in truffles and other types of fine foods. If you’re looking for a great United States based supplier for your rare delicacies, be sure to check them out. Urbani prides itself on offering fresh truffles that are shipped straight to you from the ground to you. This company has been dealing in truffles for a long time, and they always only offer products that are in season. If you’re looking for frozen or jarred truffles, this may not be the place for you, but if fresh is what you want, be sure to see what’s in stock the next time you go truffle shopping.
- Earthy Delights – For the past thirty years, Earthy Delights has been providing truffles to United States shoppers along with high-quality wild mushrooms both rare and common. This company focuses on providing excellent ingredients that you can take pride in eating and serving. Depending on what’s in season, you can find some truffles fresh here, but many are available flash-frozen all year round. For many types of truffle, this may also be one of the most affordable places for you to get your shopping done.
- Gourmet Foodstore – Gourmet Foodstore is known for supplying ingredients and cooking supplies to chefs in restaurants around the world. Based in the United States, this company receives fresh truffles from Europe when they’re in season, and offers them for sale at a reasonable price. There’s a huge selection of products available from this store, so no matter what you’re looking for, you can find it here. Pick up a jar of truffle shavings if you’re just looking to garnish a dish with a fancy side, or choose fresh or flash-frozen whole in season truffles to design the perfect affluent meal.
Where to Buy Truffles
You can pick up truffles from a variety of different places, but if you aren’t willing to order online, your options may be more limited depending on where you live. You simply will not be able to find good quality, fresh, rare truffles in the United States if you’re sticking only to shops you can find in person unless you live in a major city. You can find a lot of good truffle products from various physical stores, however. Check out this list to figure out where to do some truffle shopping.
- Brands listed above – The top truffle brands listed in the section above are a good place to start if you’re looking for high quality fresh or frozen truffles. They usually sell what’s in season from their official websites, and you can rest assured that any truffles you buy from these suppliers are sure to be very nice quality. Even the frozen truffles from these vendors taste amazing, and all of the truffles you can buy from these stores are real, correctly labeled products.
- Amazon.com – You can shop for truffles on Amazon, and sometimes, it’s possible to find a good deal there. Pay close attention to the reviews when you’re shopping for truffles through the Amazon Marketplace, however. Sometimes, truffles may be mislabeled when sold through Amazon, so it pays to look closely at the descriptions as well as feedback from other customers before making your final purchase. In some instances, though, you can find high-quality truffles at a great price here.
- Whole Foods – If you have a local Whole Foods store, you can find jarred truffles packed in oil, as well as truffle butter and other truffle-related products. You probably won’t be able to find whole, fresh truffles here, but there’s a chance you’ll come across frozen ones when they’re in-season. This store usually carries higher quality truffle products, so you can enjoy the flavor of truffles without having to spend a ton of money to do it.
- Dean and Deluca – This store is hard to come by, with only a handful of locations worldwide, but if you happen to live near one or be in the area on a trip, you can find whole, fresh truffles for sale when you stop by. New York, North Carolina, Kansas, and California are home to the US-based locations, and there are several options worldwide as well.
And that’s all there is to know about truffles! These unique and amazing delicacies are a fantastic way to explore the world of high-class culinary cooking and eating. Whether you’re buying truffles to slice up and serve on their own, or you’re looking for ways to use them in your next fancy meal or even in skin care products, you now have all the information you need to get out there and start enjoying these rare treats.
Remember that buying truffles is a process, and if you’re not ordering online you should take your time and shop around before simply choosing the first truffle you come across in person. If you are buying online, however, you can keep your eyes open for the best combination of affordability and quality products to help you bring home the perfect truffle every time.
Truffles can be a complicated culinary interest to get involved with, but they can be well worth it! The next time you find yourself looking for a unique way to bring some flavor and flair to your cooking, remember what you’ve learned here today and do some shopping for truffles. You’ll be glad you did!