Australian Black Winter Truffles
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Australian Black Winter truffles widely vary in size and shape, depending on growing conditions, and generally average 2 to 7 centimeters in diameter. The truffles are typically molded by stones in the soil, creating a rounded, lumpy, and lopsided exterior. The truffle's surface ranges in color from brown-black, dark brown, to gray-black and has a grainy texture, covered in many small protrusions, bumps, and crevices. Underneath the surface, the flesh is firm, spongy, dense, and smooth with black, dark-purple hues marbled with white spider veining. Australian Black Winter truffles bear a robust, musky aroma that is likened to a combination of garlic, forest floor, nuts, and chocolate. The truffle’s flesh contains a strong, subtly sweet, savory, and earthy flavor with pepper, mushrooms, mint, and hazelnut notes.
Australian Black Winter truffles are available during the Southern Hemisphere's winter, which coincides with the Northern Hemisphere's summer.
Australian Black Winter truffles, botanically classified as Tuber melanosporum, are a rare fungus belonging to the Tuberaceae family. The black truffles were created in the late 20th century from trees inoculated with spores from the famous perigord black truffle, an ancient variety native to Southern Europe. Perigord truffles have been growing naturally for thousands of years and are found underground, primarily near the roots of oak and hazelnut trees. Australian Black Winter truffles are almost identical in flavor and texture to the European perigord truffle, only with slight flavor differences developed from the terroir. Australia was one of the Southern Hemisphere's first countries to grow black truffles and was selected for its mild winter climate. The country is currently one of the fastest-growing sites for truffle production, and Australian Black Winter truffles are harvested during the winter season, filling the gap in Europe’s truffle market. Australian Black Winter truffles are mainly exported to Europe, Asia, and North America and provide chefs with truffles year-round. There is also a small growing domestic market as more Australians are becoming familiar with the prized ingredient.
Australian Black Winter truffles are a source of antioxidants to protect the body against free radical cell damage and contain vitamin C to strengthen the immune system while reducing inflammation. The truffles also provide some fiber to stimulate digestion, calcium to protect bones and teeth, and lower amounts of vitamins A and K, phosphorus, iron, manganese, and magnesium.
Australian Black Winter truffles have an unmistakable, robust fragrance and provide rich, earthy, and umami-filled flavors suitable for a wide variety of culinary preparations. The truffles are best used sparingly in raw or lightly heated applications, typically shaved, grated, slivered, or thinly sliced, and their flavor shines in cream-based sauces, fatty oils, and neutral dishes with starches such as rice, pasta, and potatoes. Australian Black Winter truffles can be shaved over omelets, pizza, pasta, soups, and lobster rolls, layered into burgers, grated into hearty sauces and dips, or mixed into mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese dishes. The truffles can also be sliced thin and placed under the skin of poultry or turkey, cooked to impart an earthy flavor, or they can be incorporated into crème brulee, ice cream, custard, and other savory-sweet desserts. It is important to note that cooking Australian Black Winter truffles will intensify their flavor and aroma, and a little slice of truffle goes a long way in culinary dishes. Australian Black Winter truffles can also be infused into oils and honey, used to flavor spirits, or folded into butter and frozen for extended use. Australian Black Winter truffles pair well with herbs such as tarragon, basil, parsley, and oregano, mushrooms, root vegetables, green beans, aromatics such as garlic, shallots, and onions, seafood, meats including beef, turkey, poultry, venison, pork, and duck, and cheeses such as goat, parmesan, fontina, chevre, and gouda. Fresh Australian Black Winter truffles will keep up to one week when wrapped in a paper towel or moisture absorbent cloth and stored in a sealed container in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. The truffle should remain dry for the best quality and flavor. If keeping for more than a couple of days, replace the paper towel regularly to prevent moisture build-up as the fungus will naturally release moisture as it is stored.
The use of black truffles in Australian gastronomy is still relatively new and has been slowly increasing as more consumers and chefs are being educated on the truffle’s purpose in culinary dishes and flavor profile. In 2020 when lockdowns were enforced due to the coronavirus pandemic, many truffières throughout Australia saw a sharp increase in the domestic sales of Australian Black Winter truffles. The demand for the local truffles was directly connected to Australian residents spending time at home, becoming more comfortable and adventurous in the kitchen. Many home chefs were sampling Australian Black Winter truffles from different regions of Australia to learn how terroir affects the flavor of the truffle, and the chefs then used the truffles to bring exotic flavors to traditional winter cuisine. Outside of the pandemic, truffières are also creating memorable truffle experiences. In Manjimup, a region considered the center of truffle cultivation in Australia, the annual Truffle Kerfuffle festival has been held for over a decade, celebrating the Australian Black Winter truffle. The festival features interactive experiences where visitors can accompany truffle hunters and their trained dogs to hunt for truffles in the forest. Some visitors even have the opportunity to dig truffles from the ground, and after the hunt, light refreshments and meals showcasing truffles are offered. The festival also promotes truffles through food vendors, educational talks, degustation dinners, and truffle markets.
Australian Black Winter truffles are descendants of black truffles native to Southern Europe. The ancient truffles, commonly known as perigord truffles in Europe, have been growing wild for thousands of years and are among the most valued culinary truffles. In an effort to expand cultivation, the French National Institute of Agronomics discovered how to successfully cultivate black truffles by inoculating trees. This scientific process was later emulated in Australia, and the roots of oak and hazelnut saplings were inoculated with the spores of the black truffle, planted in Tasmania in the late 1980s. It took over five years before the inoculated trees produced truffles, but the cultivated fungus bared a similar flavor and texture to the European version, proving the experiment to be a success. In the early 1990s, inoculated trees were widely planted across Australia, and in 1997, commercial trees were planted in Manjimup, Western Australia. Manjimup is home to the most concentrated grouping of truffières, including the first mainland and largest truffière, the famous Truffle & Wine Co. Today there are over 200 truffle farms throughout Australia growing Australian Black Winter truffles for domestic and international use. Despite their expanded production, Australian Black Winter truffles are still considered very rare, taking years to develop, and can be found in limited seasonal supply. Australian Black Winter truffles are grown in Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, and New South Wales and are exported worldwide through online retailers and specialty grocers.
Recipes that include Australian Black Winter Truffles. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Chew Town||Truffle Fettuccine with Cream and White Wine|