The Truffle

The Perigourdian black truffle is to the local cuisine what Sarlat is to the Perigord: a jewel.

At Sarlat it has become so important a cult object that an annual festival has been created in its honour on the 3rd week-end in January, at the height of its season. For the black diamond is found from December to February.

Around Sarlat, some truffle producers have agreed to divulge their "secret garden" and will initiate you in the art of "cavage", searching for truffles. The "caveur" can recognize the presence of a truffle from the lack of vegetation around a truffle tree – he says the area is burnt "brûlis".

He digs where he can see truffle flies (a species which lays its eggs above the truffle) taking off from the ground, or he uses a trained dog who can smell a truffle buried 5 to 30cm below the surface.

In cooking, a few slices of the Tuber Melanosporum (its scientific name) can perfume any dish with its characteristic and powerful odour. Though the black truffle of the Perigord is the most famous, there are two other species found frequently in the Perigord Noir which are also seen as a delicacy: the winter truffle (Tuber Brumale), and the summer truffle (Tuber Aestivum), which is eaten fresh and raw.

 

Where can you buy it?

At the Saturday morning Sarlat market from December to February, at the bottom of the rue Fénelon near to the Hôtel de Ville. The Sarlat market is one of the prime markets for the truffle where its sale is controlled and supervised and even a novice can be sure that his purchase will be one of quality at a fair price.

And don’t be put off by the price per kilo which often makes a truffle seem inaccessible. 50 g is enough to make an excellent dish.Sarlat market is the most important wholesale market for truffles in the Aquitaine. What better recommendation!

 

How to keep it?

The simplest method is to keep it in an airtight container with some fresh eggs. The perfume will permeate the eggs and result in a wonderful omelette. Little by little truffles lose their humidity and with it their taste, and another solution consists of keeping them in rice which will retain both moisture and flavour.