Friday, 2 December 2011

White Truffle

The first definite information on truffles appears in the “Naturalis Historia" of Pliny the Elder. In the first century AD, thanks to the Greek philosopher Plutarch of Chaeronea was passed on the idea that the precious fungus was born by the combined action of water, heat and lightning. Various poets drew inspiration from here, one of these, Juvenal, explained that the origin of the precious fungus, at that time called "tuber terrae", is due to a thunderbolt hurled by Jupiter near an oak tree (tree considered sacred to the father of the gods). As Jupiter was also famous for his prodigious sexual activity, truffles have always been attributed aphrodisiac qualities. Physician Galen wrote: "The truffle is very nutritious and can give the pleasure."

Among the notable renaissance authors must cite at least the doctor Umbrian Alfonso Ceccarelli, who wrote a book on the truffle, the Opusculus tuberis (1564), which summarizes the opinions of naturalists Greek and Latin, and various historical anecdotes. From this reading is that the truffle has always been highly prized food, particularly in the tables of nobles and prelates. For some, its aroma was a sort of "fifth essence" that caused an effect on the human being ecstatic.
Research conducted by Raoul Molinari and Giordano Berti on chronicles of medieval and Renaissance texts, historical texts of the Savoy House and letters of reporters and travelers from the eighteenth and nineteenth century, has brought to light an extraordinary amount of news that enhance the entire Monferrato area (which includes Casal Monferrato, Alessandria, Acqui, Asti, Langhe and Roero) as a place of production of the most excellent truffles, superior in quality to those in France.

Among the places that are renowned since the Middle Ages for the research and sale of truffles emerge in particular two cities: Casale Monferrato whose truffles, before the annexation to the Kingdom of Piedmont, were appointed to the court of the Gonzaga of Mantua, Tortona, the center of supply for the Visconti-Sforza of Milan.

Truffles are quite rare, and are edible and highly appreciated in gastronomy, cost up to very high amounts (for some varieties, including more than 4,000 euros per kg). Italy is one of the largest producers and exporters of truffles. In the Italian territory you can collect all kinds of truffles used in cooking. Other major areas of production of white truffles as well as the province of Asti and Alba, is the area of ​​San Miniato in Tuscany, the one of Acqualagna in the province of Pesaro-Urbino, and the one of San Pietro Avellana in the province of Isernia and theone of Ateleta in the province of L’Aquila. Much more common is the black truffle, which sees in Umbria one of the most suited to its production.

In Italy it is always possible to collect truffles, unless the period of late April. Traditionally, the collection was accomplished using a piglet. The problem with this method is that the pig is fond of truffles, and should hold him to prevent him from eating found.
Nowadays, in Italy are used only properly trained dogs from not take particular breeds (apart from the Lagotto Romagnolo), on the contrary usually chooses a small bastards. But in some regions of France, notably in the Lot and in Perigord, is used today to go in search of truffles with pigs fully trained, a habit that in Italy, as demonstrated by a thorough search of Giordano Berti on a large amount illustrated magazines and photographic, has disappeared after World War II to meet the increasing demand for truffles and the subsequent development of "schools" for training truffle dogs.
Despite the association of the image of the boar with truffles, wild boar has never been used, because of the apparent difficulty of controlling a wild animal and not be tamed.

The truffle, prized as a niche product, fits perfectly to the marketing model made ​​in Italy. It is sold whole and fresh, despite the exorbitant cost, the difficulty of transport and storage, but it is also transformed in a creative way by many processing enterprises. They are usually prepared jars with small whole truffles, and other products based on this mushroom carpaccio (thin slices or to), including ready-made sauces usually a mushroom, which are suitable for use on crostini, bruschetta , durum wheat pasta, fresh pasta or soy fillet steaks. Other preparations are common and bitter brandy truffle. The olive oils flavored with truffles are very popular, but because of difficulties in the production process, are prepared with spices and essences: products are therefore less natural than the truffle sauce with meat. Some special preparations are emerging thanks to the inventiveness of manufacturers, such as “peschette al tartufo d’Abruzzo”, made with green dwarf peach, olive oil and vinegar

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