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Italian Truffles

Listed under Original Gifts in Umbria, Italy.

Photo of Italian Truffles
Photo by flickr user Kjunstorm
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Their location a mystery to our inadequate human noses, truffles grow half a metre underground in symbiosis with various trees, and can only be found with the help of specially trained dogs (since although pigs are more naturally talented in this art, they tend to render a truffle-hunt pointless by unceremoniously eating the spoils there and then).

Renowned as a powerful aphrodisiac and historically only found on the tables of the very wealthy, truffles are delicately and incomparably delicious, with a heady, earthy, warm aroma. They have been revered as a culinary delicacy since the fourth century, when some of the world's finest minds surmised that their presence must be the result of lighting striking the wet ground.

It is widely agreed that Italy's truffles are the world's finest, and the Urbani family have been hunting down fresh ones and making them available to enamoured, grateful food lovers since 1850. There are a number of different species, each available at a different time of year, including the Bianchetto and the Summer Truffle, but the best are the White Truffles, harvested between October and January, and the Black Winter Truffles, harvested from November to March.

Black truffles have a smooth, mushroomy aroma and even, black skin, and are deep brown inside with a flush of dark purple. They are often used in pates or cooked with meat, whereas white truffles have a fresher, more pungent scent with a cream-coloured, marbled flesh and are more frequently used raw, finely shaved over buttered pasta or soup.

Fresh, in-season truffles are hard to beat but the preserved kind are hardly a disappointment, and are great in all kinds of recipes.

Available online here.

Written by  larapiegeler.

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