Black truffles are among the most exotic and highly sought after mushrooms. They are often described as having a very dark, almost charcoal gray, appearance. This is because the mushroom is a member of the Ascomycota family, which contains over 200 genera. A common truffle is usually a fruiting body on a thin, underground ascomycete (subterranean ascomycetes) fungus, mostly one of four species of the genus Tuber; however, many other species are also recognized as truffles, including Geopora, Choiromyces, Peziza, and several others. The other species in this family, collectively known as the "Tuber species" of Tuberomycota, can sometimes be mistaken for other varieties.
Truffles are widely used in cooking, in both their fresh state and when mixed with other ingredients. Their flavor is extremely versatile, ranging from light to heavy, to a slightly sweet taste, depending on the specific species, used. Most varieties can be eaten raw, while others can be added to salads, meats, and bread. They are often prepared in this way by using truffle salt as a component of the preparation. This is most common in Italian dishes, where it is used in meats such as salami and prosciutto. It also goes well with cheeses and other cured meats, such as prosciutto.
Truffles are usually harvested during their fruiting stage. Although it takes several months to get them ready to use, the mushrooms must be kept at very low temperatures, as high temperatures may cause the fungi to overgrow and result in the loss of flavor and some of their pungency. This is not possible in all areas, as this fungus is susceptible to certain environmental factors such as direct sunlight, wind, high humidity levels, and temperature fluctuations. If the environment is not ideal, then the mushrooms will not mature properly.
Black truffle is harvested when the mushroom's stem is pulled back with a knife or a hand. The inside flesh is then pulled out in small pieces; however, the outer skin is often discarded. A good way to identify these mushrooms is to note that the pungent odor is almost entirely distinct when they are harvested from the stems.
Traditionally, truffle salt is placed over the mushrooms just before cooking, but the true secret is to use the mixture a day or two prior to cooking. It is important to add the salt only after the mushrooms have been cooked; however, it can also be added immediately before serving. The truffle salt should be prepared by mixing together equal parts of salt and water, stirring thoroughly, and then shaking off any excess mixture. It is important to not leave any of this mixture on the mushrooms at room temperature, as this could result in burning.
Truffles can be added to foods directly, although it is best to add the salt to the prepared food as it is being prepared. The exact proportions vary depending on the type of food, but for example, they can often be sprinkled onto salads and meats or added to a salad dressing. Other preparations in which they are sometimes added include making a delicious salad dressing or served with cheeses or pasta.
When cooking, black truffle salt will often sink to the bottom of a dish as they are being cooked. This is sometimes referred to as "sinking"; however, it is also caused by an undercooked dish. It is very important to stir constantly when using this kind of salt to avoid this problem. Even if this does not occur, it is advisable to wait until the truffles sink to ensure that all ingredients are cooked to the proper degree and flavor.
Using truffle salt for cooking is not a difficult process; however, if using it in place of traditional seasonings, it is important to check to ensure that all the ingredients are combined thoroughly before the salt is added to the recipe. In most cases, the mixture will have a distinct color that corresponds to the type of seasoning used to prepare the dish; for example, a truffle made from the Italian herb Rosemary is going to have a lighter color than one made with garlic powder.