Truffles! January is the month to visit truffle fairs in the Languedoc and cook with this famous gastronomic delicacy.
Known as the ‘black princess’ the truffle is an underground forest mushroom, highly scented, imparting a unique flavour to the dish. It is generally found buried in the soil beneath the truffle oak and certain other trees and is gathered from December to March.
Traditionally truffles were unearthed with the aid of pigs. Female pigs are attracted to truffles as they contain a compound similar to a pheromone secreted by boars. Specially trained truffle-dogs are now used, especially because the sows have a tendency to eat the truffle once located! This time consuming and labour intensive process of harvesting the wild truffles is one of the reasons they have such a high price.
The best known French variety is the black Périgord truffle.
Every year there are truffle fairs to be found throughout the regions of France, including the Languedoc. The closest fair to Magalas is the one held in Clermont L’Hérault, at the end of January when truffles are at their most fragrant. It’s an excellent day out for truffle enthusiasts or just the curious.
You will certainly see the locals carefully choosing their favoured truffle and buying pieces.
Everything to do with truffles is for sale at the fairs, be it for the truffle hunter or the truffle cook (who will definitely need a truffle plane and grater). There is truffle oil, truffle salt heavenly with almost anything, to the truffles themselves. The stallholders serve truffle omelets, there is a fun truffle hunt open to all dogs, more truffle knives than you could imagine.
Winter black truffles are best cooked; the flavour of the truffle intensifies with the heat as it is cooked. Truffle shavings, strips or thin slices can be used when cooking any fowl, fish, beef, pork, game. It’s often found in combination with cheese, bacon or pancetta.The ultimate luxury is layered with foie gras in a terrine! Pick up your recipes at the fairs.
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