Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fungi or Candy?

A truffle, Webster's dictionary says, is "the dark or light edible subterranean fruiting body of several European ascomycetous fungi."  Gourmands say it is gold!
Truffles are harvested in southern France  with the help of dogs and pigs who follow the scent of this pungent fungi.  Those who hunt this fungi guard their areas, usually around the oak trees,  for the treasures that grow at their feet.
Two weekends in January, we observed the Truffle Market in Uzes.  Last years post, Two Americans Loose in France 2009 
and another quite different one in Carpentras about an hour away.
  The Uzes market began with Sophie, a huge, gorgeous pig, who sniffed her way through the soil which had been brought into the market place.  Attended by her owner, who watched her carefully, Sophie discovered many previously hidden truffles and was rewarded for her diligent work.
  I think she even smiled, proud of her excellent skills.
The Uzes market gathered people from near and far who looked for that perfect, precious gem---a diamant noir, black diamond.  The most important sign of that truffle is its fragrance, color, and lack of any dirt to add unnecessary weight to the fungus.
In contrast, the Carpentras market begins when the clock high in the ancient Hotel Dieu tower, strikes nine.
  Sellers of truffles, carefully guarding their bags of the found gems, gather at tables. 
Professional buyers stream into the area to examine, smell, touch the truffle and some buyers, knife in hand, take a small sliver to observe the inside color.  Why?  A freeze had frozen some truffes and flavors had suffered.
Buyers walked around with all sorts of bags, plastic, muslin, calico bulging with their finds.

Bargains were struck and some sellers returned home with a pocket filled with money.
All this took place in ten minutes (add another 10 minutes for this day as buyers were being careful not to purchase the frozen truffles whose flavors had suffered)..
The price this year?
That is 1000 euros for a kilo. (a kilo is 2.2 pounds)  It is no wonder the buyers are so careful with their purchases.
Now, for our Christmas present from the girls.  We, along with Gina Trevier of Maison Trevier, cooked a complete dinner using truffles of the region.  Just wait to see!


Oh, and the other Webster's definition of truffle?  "A candy made of chocolate, butter, sugar, and sometimes liqueur shaped into balls and often coated with cocoa."  Yum!

1 comment:

  1. Boy, that was a truffle dinner and a half! We like to go to the Uzes truffle day, buy a nice little truffle, some truffle scented eggs, a fresh baguette and make a big truffle omelette for lunch with a nice bottle of viognier.