When I started to plan my orchard and research our land parcel (to see which trees will work here), I had the happy accident of discovering that our property was, in fact, excellent for truffles. Although I moved here rather recently from NC, I did know that western Oregon and Washington are among the very few places outside of Europe where truffles grow beneath the soil. And some of my friends are avid mushroom hunters and occasional told tales of a truffle discovery. There are a number of trees that will interfere with natural truffle growth, so I hired The Truffle Dog Company to come out, conduct a search with their Lagotto Romagnolo pups, and consult me on trees I should and should not plant on this very special property!
We conducted two truffle hunts and found more than two ounces of fragrant, distinctive white and black truffles. Both black and white! While our native truffles are not as large or valuable as the Italian white "Alba" truffles or French black "Perigord," I was grateful to the dogs and the woods for yielding such unique and beautiful treasures. Ours are called Oregon White and Oregon Black, and they range from the size of a pea to a golf ball. The white ones are the very fragrant, if not pungent, ones that most people would recognize the smell and taste of. Oregon Blacks are much more subtle and also more attractive to bacteria. Both perish quickly and if you find one, your best option is to use them right away.
Since I happen to work at a creamery, I churned some cultured butter and shaved the white truffles into it using a fine Microplane. I sold out of it in about an hour! I didn't seek to make a profit, as I love sharing treasures, especially the local kind, with friends and fellow Duvall dwellers, but I charged a little extra to offset the truffle dog fee!
December and January are peak truffle time, so now that I've had two great visits, I don't reckon we'll have too many more to harvest this year. But now I know they're here and I'll have something to look forward to in the dreariest and darkest of months here in Western Washington.
Should you happen upon an earthen truffle, be very careful when you wash it. I would advise putting it in a fine mesh sieve and rinsing it gently with lukewarm water. You can gently scrub off the dirt with your fingers or a baby toothbrush. Then place them on a dry paper towel, let them dry completely, and loosely wrap them in a new paper towel, and place in a glass jar or plastic container in the refrigerator. If the truffle is black, dip it in vodka before you dry it, as that will help limit their extra- rapid bacterial growth. They should last a few days and up to a week. DO NOT PUT THEM IN RICE TO KEEP THEM DRY. I am told that I should emphasize that! Bacteria factory!!
You have a clean, dry truffle. Now you have the undiluted pleasure of deciding how to eat it. You definitely want to have it with something kind of neutral so you can really taste and savor the subtle flavor. Don't steep them in oil or try to infuse! They are just too perishable for that. Did you know that most truffle oils are infused with synthetic truffle, contrived in a lab? If you could afford that oil, it was definitely synthetic! Your truffle is itty bitty, but it has a big personality. My advice is to shave it (using a Microplane or nutmeg grater) over pasta, good eggs/omelettes, or a mellow artisanal cheese. Or unsalted butter, and pour that over meat or pasta. If you stir it into a sauce or bake it, you're going to kill the flavor or bury it. Don't do it!
I HAVE A BLACK TRUFFLE!
Then grate it into a half cup of cold-pressed olive oil. Stir in some chopped anchovy. Pour this over pasta or fowl and grate some fresh Parmesan cheese to finish. Add a little sea salt and pepper as needed.
I HAVE A WHITE TRUFFLE!
Again, you can't go wrong with olive oil and a little bit of high-quality Parmesan to finish. Fowl, pasta, or risotto would welcome it with unconditional glee, as will your senses!
Lolo works her business and her trainer
A simple black truffle, olive oil and anchovy emulsion
Pasta with a little olive oil, butter and shaved white truffle
A bounty of black and white truffles!
Cultured unsalted butter with shaved white truffle