As we gathered around the table for our welcome dinner at the farmhouse in Provence, our host Sherry Page gave us our first lesson on the Perigord black truffle, which is scientifically known as tuber melanosporum. Of the black truffles, the Perigord species is generally the most highly prized, and is most commonly found in the south of France.
How to Choose a Good Black Perigord Truffle
- Weight to size: When you pick up a truffle, it should be heavy for its size. A good weight to size ratio is an indicator of freshness as the truffle's natural moisture begins to evaporate shortly after it is harvested. A truffle that feels insubstantial for its size, it may have been sitting around for a while.
- Aroma: A black truffle can exude many different and intoxicating aromas from a combination of red wine, chocolate and cheese to earthy mushrooms. If the black truffle does not have any aroma, avoid it. Truffles are highly perishable and the fragrance deteriorates with time, so choose truffle specimens that are aromatic. Some unscrupulous merchants have been known to rub truffle oil onto old truffles to enhance or amplify aromas, or even worse disguise cheaper truffle specimens with potent truffle oil scents to garner higher prices. Stick to a reputable merchant when purchasing this valuable spore.
- Firm: Once you have weighed the truffles in your hand and taken in the intoxicating aromas, feel around the truffle to ensure that there are no soft spots. A soft spot may indicate decay, which can also be detected by a rotting odor. Some truffles, like the one below have natural indentations or holes, which do not impact quality. However, unscrupulous vendors have been known to stuff the holes with dirt. Again, stick to a reputable merchant when purchasing a truffle.
Again, a natural hole in the truffle will not compromise quality, but take care to ensure that the holes are not filled with dirt so that you get the most for your money.
Most truffles are sold unwashed to maintain quality and freshness. Some vendors may make a small indentation in the truffle with a knife, such as the one pictured above, to check for quality. The indentation reveals a dark, firm flesh with thin spidery veins, which is desirable for the Perigord.
If you find that after scrubbing and washing your Perigord truffle that there are soft spots, such as the one pictured below, which indicates that the truffle has been exposed to frost and has started to decay.
Or that the flesh is not dark with spidery veins, as pictured in the specimen that Sherry Page is holding, take the truffle back to the merchant you purchased it from to exchange for a better specimen.
Once you have washed and scrubbed the truffle, wrap it in dry paper towel and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
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