Truffle season in France
This winter, our Succulent team travelled down to the South of France to discover the secrets of one of French cuisine’s most wanted and prestigious ingredient: Truffles.
Two third of the world’s production of Truffle comes from France, and le Gard Provençal is one of the most productive region due to its very fertile soils. For that reason, The Truffle Fair has been held in Uzès, an elegant town located in the west of Avignon and north of Nîmes, every January since 1993. Through the years, it has become a reference in the culinary world thanks to the notorious quality of the products sold.
We brought back for you some precious tips and info on how to best exploit the subtile flavors of this delicate “tuber melanosporum” – commonly know as black truffle.
The event is spread throughout a weekend of three days and starts on a Friday evening. The first evening introduces a dinner pairing truffle dishes and wine of the region, the Duché d’Uzès. In other words, winemakers and truffles producers come together to offer amateurs and curious visitors the best productions of the region in one meal. The ambiance is always quite cheerful. A lot of visitors have become regulars throughout the years and a friendly spirit surrounds this first episode of the Fair.
The next day, the Truffle weekend goes on with organized tours and “hunts” in local farms. This was a great way to get to know the area and the story around truffle hunts. We learnt for example that the fungus cycle starts in November and ends by March – which explains why Uzès is always so busy in winter. All through those five months the region will welcome cooks and chefs from all over France who will need to refill their stock of truffle for the year to come.
Consequently, the Saturday night dinner regroups a certain number of chefs, many of them awarded with a Michelin star, who will cook gastronomic meals incorporating the praised Black Truffle. This panel of renowned chefs enhances the importance and quality of the event. The seats have to be reserved ahead of time as the meals prepared by these emblems of French cuisine are quite coveted.
By Sunday morning, a bunch of truffles are blessed during a mass to then be sold at an auction benefiting a local charity. The sale is made by the president of the French Truffle producers accompanied by the Compagnie Bachique des vins d’Uzès (the company of local winemakers).
This last event rings the last round of this wonderful event. A beautiful truffle market is held around the arcades of the Place aux Herbes. Tasting and demonstrations are offered; one can even assist to a live hunt with pigs in the middle of the Place. Obviously, fresh truffles are available for personal sales (directly from producers) and a whole lot of accessories are displayed to look after your black truffles.
After shopping, it is time to drink a nice glass of wine and enjoy one of their several truffle specialities: truffle slices over bread, pâtés nîmois, macaron with truffle, eggs with truffle, brandade from Nîmes… It was a delight for the eyes and the tastebuds!
Some insights and information:
There are a lot of useful utensils one can use to tend to its truffles at home: specific brushes, wooden slicer to make the perfect slices on top of your dishes and even small container in plastic
that will keep your fresh black truffle safe in your refrigerator for two weeks. No need to be an expert to get all these tools, they are available for any truffle lovers !
The price of truffle is around 1 000€ / kilo (117kg were sold during the week-end).
Some golden rules to enjoy Truffles:
- Cook them as little as possible, instead of developing their taste it will and don’t hesitate to eat them raw
- Truffles will express all their flavors if you give them some rest, preparing them in advance will make your dish tastier.
- Truffles need fat to express themselves! Cream, butter, oil, are the best allies to catch and keep its perfume.
- On the other hand, avoid seasoning such as lemon, vinegar or garlic that will cover the taste.
- Tip: Put some truffles inside a plastic box with eggs, the smell and taste will go through the egg shell. (see picture on the right)
We managed to get a shot of the praised truffle hunting pigs.