For most of the year, the black truffle is a plain Jane, hidden beneath the ground and undistinguished in taste or aroma. When the days shorten in autumn and the nights become cool, the spores of black truffles mature and must be freed from the earth. It is at this time that the fragrance and flavor of the truffle becomes outstanding and draw the attention of both humans and animals. Truffles that have been collected too early have little taste, and the mushroom deteriorates quite rapidly once mature. The symphony of aroma released by the black truffle is the only indication that the fungus is ready to harvest.
The narrow window during which black truffles are at their peak demands that proper storage be provided to prolong the time in which these delicacies may be enjoyed. Black truffles are among the most expensive food in the world, a factor which, combined with their unique and unworldly fragrance and taste, means that they should be treated with the uttermost respect when stored.
PROPERLY STORING BLACK TRUFFLES
It is extremely important to get black truffles into a secure storage as quickly as possible after procurement; as the odor of the truffle is released, the taste of the truffle correspondingly decreases. Exposure to air not only draws the aroma out rapidly but also causes the fungus to dry out. Proper storage procedures can help to preserve the aroma and flavor of black truffles, and prolong their period of enjoyment. Whether the truffles will be used in restaurants or in the home, the methods are identical, and not difficult to accomplish. Black truffles should be cleaned prior to being stored, but the outside integument should be left on until it’s time to use them.
- Probably the best way to keep black truffles fresh as long as possible is to place them in a sealed container and keep them in the refrigerator. Use a glass canning jar for this. In order to prevent the truffle from losing its fragrance, and taste, too quickly, use rice to surround it – this will not only help to keep the truffle moist and help it to retain its aroma and flavor, but will also flavor the rice, which can then be used in recipes.
- Some people will use paper towels instead of rice to protect black truffles while they are stored. This method will help to prevent the truffle from dehydrating, but as the paper towels must be changed every day, it wastes the precious aroma.
- Truffles can also be frozen for longer term storage. After being cleaned and dried, the truffles should be wrapped in foil and placed in a glass container. Foil will help to keep condensation from the truffle, which would cause its deterioration. When it’s time to use the frozen truffle, do not defrost it – this will only make it mushy. Slice off the outside before the black truffle defrosts and use in cooking immediately. Fresh black truffles are very ephemeral in nature and those kept in the refrigerator should be used within 3 days. Storing truffles in the freezer will keep the fungi stable and in good condition for half a year. Taking a bit of extra effort to store black truffles properly will reward the gourmand with the full-bodied flavor with which nature has imbued these underground mushrooms.