How to choose a good quality black summer truffle (tuber aestivum vittadini).
Season and Price
The black summer truffle is the least expensive of the truffles and its flavour is more delicate than that of the winter truffles. I would recommend waiting until mid-season before you buy one. Black summer truffles are at their peak around July and early August, the price usually drops around this time and the flavour is fuller.
Having said that, do make sure that you are buying tuber aestivum and not some inferior black truffle as there are some varieties that are virtually tasteless. Tuber Indicum is one to avoid at all costs. This is the Asian black truffle aka the Chinese truffle. The problem with this truffle is not so much the species itself as the method used to unearth it.
Whereas in Europe, dogs search for truffles, the tuber indicum hunters use rakes or ploughs. The technique used to find truffles plays a huge role in their quality. Dogs sniff out mature truffles – these have a very strong scent and consequently have a high culinary value. Rakes, on the other hand, bring all manner of truffles to the surface regardless of how ripe they are. Many of these truffles are immature and have no aroma to speak of. This means the truffle will taste of nothing whatsoever. When a truffle is tasteless it usually finds its way into some truffle based product. If you don’t believe me, check the list of ingredients on a truffle product. When tuber indicum is listed, you can guarantee that truffle aroma will also be on that list.
The Touch and Smell Test
Before you cook with a truffle, feel it. Check that is not soft in any place. However there should be some give when you press it. If it is rock hard, it is probably immature. Have a good sniff. The best black summer truffles should have a strong mushroomy smell like a porcini but with a more garlicky, earthy scent.
The Colour Test
Look at it. If the truffle is cut, then examine the inside. What colour is the flesh? The paler the truffle, the more likely it is to be unripe and therefore flavourless and a huge disappointment. A ripe truffle should be beige with paler veins.
If you have ordered a truffle and the flesh is cream-coloured, take a photograph and message this to the seller. Immature truffles can be an issue at the start of the season. It is hard for the dealer to be sure what the truffle is like inside without cutting it open. Reputable dealers will exchange an immature truffle for you. If you are buying the truffle in person, ask the seller to make a small cut on the truffle to reveal the interior. This is standard practice, so if the seller bawks take your custom elsewhere.
How to Cook
Once you have got your hands on a nice quality black truffle, you can start experimenting with ways to enjoy the flavour. The tuber aestivum is probably the most versatile of all of the truffles and you can eat it cooked or raw. As with the other truffles, it should still be the star of any dish but its more delicate flavour lends itself to a greater variety of combinations. If you need any recipe ideas, then check out our youTube channel
Likewise if you have any recipes of your own and would like to share them, we would really love to hear from you!!