Five Amazing Facts About Truffles And How To Use Them In Cocktails
How To Use Truffles in Your Cocktails
French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin called truffles "the diamonds of the kitchen." But why are they so sought after, and what makes them so special? Firstly, they are unique, and secondly, they are rare, but there's a third and final factor too, and that's cultural. Here are some great reasons truffles have cemented deep in the traditional roots of European Haut Cuisine.
- The Ancient Greeks dedicated a whole branch of science to studying truffles called hydnology. Some believed that truffles erupted into existence when lightning struck damp soil: That the combination of warmth and water made them literally spring from the earth. Greek physician, pharmacologist, botanist, and author of De Materia Medica, Dioscorides, thought they were tuberous roots.
- The word 'truffle' originates from the Latin word tuber, which translates to 'lump' or 'swelling'. The Roman statesman Cicero, renowned for his elegant style and incredible knowledge, thought truffles were children of the earth. Pliny the Elder called truffles 'callus of the earth,' while Roman poet Juvenal was so enchanted that he said, "I would rather the corn failed than the truffle." Roman culinary expert Apicius included six truffle recipes in his De Re Coquinaria Book VII.
- We now know they are, in fact, the fruiting body of the ascomycete fungus. But despite the desire to include them in dishes, truffles were considered so alluring for centuries because they defied domestication. If you wanted to use them, you needed to hunt them down in the wild, and expert foragers called truffle hunters are still treasured today. There are truffle farms now, where truffles are cultivated, but it takes 2-5 years to grow the initial spores and a further 7-10 years before harvest.
- Truffles are meant to have aphrodisiac properties. Their powers were believed to be so potent that the church banned monks in the Middle Ages from eating them. As truffles grow underground, human noses are not sensitive enough to discover them in the wild. So we employ animals to help us root them out. Although you need to train dogs to seek out the rare treats, female pigs are natural truffle hunters. This works because the scent of truffles is exceptionally similar to a male (both pig and human) pheromone. This is why modern science believes truffles are so successful as an aphrodisiac.
- Researchers have found through genetic analysis that truffles evolved from above-ground mushrooms. They suggest that truffles developed underground to avoid drying out in droughts. Because heating causes them to lose their texture and aroma quickly, truffles are typically served raw and shaved over warm meals. Many describe the taste of truffles as an earthy and garlic-like flavour with a deep and musky aroma. Black truffles are more adaptable in cooking and less rare, whereas white truffles are prized for their delicate form and earthy, pungent, musky, and much spicier flavour.
How to Use Truffles in Cocktails
Use fats: The truffle aroma clings to cocktail ingredients containing fats such as eggs, oil and cream.
Use Condiments: You can suspend truffle in oil, butter or salt used in cocktail recipes as a garnish or with an emulsifier.
Shaving or Slicing: A truffle shaver helps you cut your truffle into paper-thin slices. This gives the most truffle flavour and gets the most servings out of your truffle. A grater or Microplane works too.
Preserve in Alcohol: Using a fresh truffle, shave or slice it and seal it in your chosen alcoholic suspension for about a week. If you don't want to go to the trouble, you can buy ready-made truffle-infused vodkas or gins.
Use of Heat: Black truffles respond better to heat than white ones. Bare this in mind if you want to do an infusion or maceration. A slow, low heat using an indirect heat source like a bain-marie or souse vide will be fine, but don't let the temperature creep above 40 degrees Celsius.
Use Quickly: The strength of the truffle flavour will naturally decrease over time. Don't keep them at room temperature. Instead, refrigerate them below 4ºC in an airtight container and place them on a bed of rice, which will absorb any moisture and preserve them for longer. Opening the container once or twice a day is crucial to avoid an accumulation of moisture and allow the truffles to breathe.
Use Truffle Aroma: Flavour Blaster has produced a truffle aroma with a long shelf life and authentic truffle flavour. If you want to try pairing truffles with your cocktails without the expert care and expense necessary of keeping these rare 'diamonds', then this is the best way to experiment.
Flavour Pairing Ideas for Truffle Cocktails
In European cuisine, the mantra 'what grows together goes together' truly applies to truffle pairing. A truffle Negroni, for example, includes Italian bitters and vermouths containing Italian herbs, woods, spices and fruits that perfectly match the earthen flavour of the truffle. Use a truffle-infused gin in three equal parts with Campari and sweet vermouth from Turin.
Creamy fruits like melon, peach, coconut and banana will contrast the truffle flavours and help the truffle flavour carry. Pairing naturally works with creamy nut or spicy flavours too. For example, you could suspend truffle in honey to mix it with lemon juice, egg and a fruit juice like pear or peach to make a Sour. Or infuse great quality whiskey with truffle shavings before mixing it with a dash of cherry brandy and some chocolate bitters in a twisted Old Fashioned.
Finally, complementary flavours include oniony, mustardy, or marine ingredients. So a Bloody Mary with truffle salt or a Gibson or Dirty Martini with suspensions of truffle oil would work wonders.