Taking care of white truffles in transit and on arrival
When shipping any perishable goods, you are looking to maintain freshness and to extend the shelf life of the product. The white winter truffle is notoriously fickle and every time you need to send a batch you are battling with three factors that could spoil the product – time, temperature and moisture.
When you receive a truffle which you have ordered you have to take all three into consideration. Proper care of the truffle will ensure that you enjoy the tuber magnatum at its best.
Truffle freshness is priority. There is a huge difference between a truffle which is a couple of days old and one which has been moving between the fridges of various traders for over a week. Truffles start to deteriorate in quality the moment they are removed from the ground. The fungus will remain in top condition for around the next five to seven days, depending on its state of maturity when it was unearthed. (Some truffles have peaked before they were found and dug up but that is another topic). After a week, the truffle is still perfectly edible but its flavour has started to disippate, it doesn’t pack the punch that it should.
To counter this, we decided early on that we would send truffles that have been collected that very same day or the previous afternoon. As hunters we are able to have a policy of getting truffles to customers within 24 – 48 hours of being unearthed. We hope that once you have tried really fresh truffles you will be able to recognise the difference between an optimum tuber magnatum and one which is a shadow of its former self. Eating a fresh white truffle should be an indescribable gastronomic sensation, not an expensive let down.
We dispatch truffles with DHL Express who promise delivery within 24 hours. They nearly always deliver on the promise but unfortunately there have been some delays this year because of covid19 and also Brexit. For this reason we no longer dispatch on Thursdays as product can end up languishing an entire weekend in a warehouse and be sub-standard on arrival.
Truffles need to be at a consistent low temperature, around 2-4 degrees Celsius is optimum. This is the normal temperature for a household fridge. If they are left at room temperature, they will spoil very quickly. Another thing to avoid is handling truffles excessively. At the same time you must not keep let truffles get too cold. They should never be in contact with ice as this could freeze them. This will cause the flesh to turn soft and some parts or all of the truffle will then be unusable. When you send truffles you should package them in a polysterene box.
At the bottom of the box or at the side, we should place an ice pack. Two if the package will be travelling to some warm climate. The pack/s should be carefully dried and wrapped in cardboard. This will prevent the truffle from making contact with the ice.
The next problem which needs to be tackled is that of damp. From the moment they are unearthed, truffles begin to lose moisture and hence their potency. The more moisture is lost, the more the flavour of the white truffle diminishes. You can prevent excessive drying out of the truffle by not storing it in rice. You want something to absorb any moisture but rice will actively encourage moisture extraction.
The other problem is that truffles need to be kept dry while they are giving off moisture. Truffles will arrive wrapped in cloth. This cloth will feel slightly damp, this is from the moisture which truffles naturally exude. On receipt of your truffle, change the cloth. You can use paper towels some kitchen paper is fine. Now you really have no business keeping your truffle in your fridge for a long amount of time, it is a rare and valuable ingredient which needs to be eaten as fresh as possible. However if you do need to store it for more than 24 hours then you will need to change this wrapper on a daily basis, preferably twice daily.
This is why we always recommend that you only wash truffles immediately before serving them. You don’t want to wash them and then store them damp for a couple of days as this will shorten the life of the truffles. They may look a bit grubby, but this layer of earth helps preserve the flavour by stopping some of the moisture loss. Everything you do with truffles should be a step towards prolonging their ephemeral flavour and increasing shelf-life.