This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
A species of fungus which grows several inches under-ground, but never appears above the surface. It is one of the articles of great luxury in France and Italy, where it grows. As it cannot be cultivated but grows spontaneously, the harvest is extremely uncertain and prices often run up to an extravagant height. This, however, is one of its attractions.
Savarin remarked: "Perhaps if they were not expensive, but were within the reach of everybody, we should not prize them so highly." It is said that the gray (inferior) truffle has been found in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and the black truffle, equal to the Perigord truffle, has been dug up in Virginia. As to the color, however, some authorities contend that the gray or white truffle is the black truffle in its unripe state.
They are found underground by means of dogs and pigs trained to hunt them by the scent. The canned and bottled truffles obtainable at the fancy grocery stores serve a purpose in decorating dishes and filling out the names of dishes in genuine style, but they possess little, if any, of the perfume and flavor of the fresh article.
There has been a rise in the price of Perigord truffles, and the Parisian chefs are much concerned at the high cost of these delicacies, which now command no less than $3 a pound. The less savory Piedmont and Dauphine species, which fastidious cooks despise, may be had for $2. These are sold to poultrymen and pork butchers to stuff turkeys, etc. There is so much difference in the quality and flavor of truffles, that caterers for epicurean tastes very rarely buy any but the real Perigord, which has a peculiar and delicious aroma.
A Paris correspondent writes: "It is gratifying 10 learn that the truffle crop, now in process of gathering, is to be a very abundant one, and a single house at Perigeaux, which is the center of the truffle trade, purchased three and a half tons last week. Some of the truffles in this lot weighed over one pound each, this being a very uncommon weight to attain: and it may be assumed, therefore, that truffles will be cheaper than they have been for the last few seasons".
The best recipe for cooking truffles is Truffes au Supreme, for which proceed as follows: One dozen fine truffles, black with large grain are best; put them to boil in half a botte of old madeira, with two little liqueur-glasses of fine champagne cognac, gray salt, a pinch of cayenne, a clove minus its head. Let all this boil together for the space of half an hour, then withdraw the truffles and place them in a timbale, reduce the liquor in which they have been boiled to onehalf, add half a spoonful of meat-glaze, "body" the sauce with some good butter, pour it over the truffles and serve at once.
See Dindon Trufie.