Truffles are the pungent, rare, mysterious and much coveted mushrooms that grow underground. Truffles are born when the right combination of tree (notably oak, chestnut, hazelnut or willow), mushroom spore and environmental conditions (limestone soil, rain at the optimum time and quantity, favourable temperatures) exist. This does happen in nature but in very limited areas. Traditional truffle hunters in the forests of France and Italy guard their troves with utmost secrecy lest others catch on to where to find these rare delicacies. Truffle cultivation is developing and the theories on the best way to produce viable crops have changed over the last decade. The success rate is improving.
The most renowned and sought after truffles are of the ‘tuber melanosporum’ variety (also known as Périgord truffles). These come from the south of France, and in a limited way in Italy and Spain.
In northern France, in the Bourgogne, Champagne and Lorraine regions, it is the ‘tuber uncinatum’ or Burgundy truffle that adapts to the northern European climatic conditions. Harvesting truffles is relatively simple as they grow near to the surface. Finding them is another matter. For that you need a pig or a specially trained dog. Traditionally it was pigs that found the truffles. They are naturally attracted to the smell of truffles but the challenge is to keep them from eating them before you can get them into the basket. Dogs do not have the natural instinct to eat truffles and can be trained to find them successfully.
This weekend, on my first trip with Slow Food Luxembourg, we went to La truffière de St-Remy-La-Calonne in the Meuse department (Lorraine region) of France. We were met and given the guided tour by the very knowledgeable and welcoming M. Michel Garzandat.
Afterward, we were treated to a delicious lunch of truffle specialities – truffle butter, pâté, scrambled eggs then the main course of chicken with truffle cream sauce and mashed potato with truffle followed by brie with truffle. A truffle lover’s heaven, I can assure you!!
Truffière de Saint-Remy
14bis, rue André Maginot – 55160 Fresnes-en-Woëvre
+33 3 29 87 30 63
The Truffière is located in the Lorraine region of northeastern France - approximately 40 km from Metz, 20 km from Verdun and 100 km from Nancy.
250 g (8 oz) butter (unsalted, half-salt or salted)
60 g (2 oz) truffles, finely diced
Salt, to taste
Mix butter, salt and truffles with a fork. Serve over bread, toast, rice or pasta.
The butter will keep in the freezer for 3-4 months.