How to recognise a truffle by its scent: a symphony of the senses
Every truffle has something that makes it unique, besides its flavour: we are talking about the intense truffle scent, with original notes for each variety.
Over the past few months, we have talked a lot about truffles and everything to do with them: from combining truffles with meat to how to become a truffle hunter and how to preserve truffles.
In short, we have begun a journey into the truffle universe that never, really, has an end, to the delight of our palate. But what is the first thing that really comes to mind when talking about truffles?
Many will answer ‘the taste’. An excellent answer, but not sufficient on its own. When we talk about truffles, it is natural to immediately think of the aroma and flavour that this ingredient can add to a dish to make it extraordinary. However, talking about truffles also means turning our attention to another aspect that makes this fruit of the earth instantly recognisable: we are talking about its scent.
Truffle scent: recognising different varieties
Unique to each truffle and different for each variety, the truffle’s scent is what guides connoisseurs, but also helps the less experienced, to recognise, along with the characteristics of each species and the harvest period, a precious black truffle from a brumale truffle, an autumn truffle from a summer truffle, a bianchetto from a precious white truffle.
In fact, one cannot distinguish a truffle by its scent alone. You also need to consider the characteristics of each variety, such as the appearance and the colour of the peridium and the gleba, plus another fundamental fact: the harvest period. In short, every truffle has its season; being aware of it allows even the least expert not to confuse a precious black truffle with a summer truffle.
In other words, the scent of truffles is an integral part of the magic surrounding this fruit of the earth and has several notes that recall many other fragrances. But which ones? Hazelnuts, nutmeg, garlic, roasted barley malt are just some notes evoked by truffles: let’s discover them together!
What does the white truffle smell like?
Let’s start talking about the king of truffles, the precious white truffle, whose season, corresponding to the start of many truffle festivals, has just begun. The precious white truffle is distinguished from its cousins not only by its exquisite flavour and the characteristic colour of the gleba and peridium, but also by its intense scent.
What does the white truffle smell like?
Notes of undergrowth, hay, and wet earth but, above all, a slight hint of garlic and gas: these are the fragrances found in the scent of the precious white truffle. A specific truffle scent, which may not appeal to everyone because of its characteristics, but which contributes to distinguishing the precious white truffle and can help even the less experienced to recognise it more easily.
This garlic scent is accentuated when we move on to talk about its closest sibling, the whitish truffle. In fact, this type of truffle has an even more intense aroma than the precious white truffle and accentuates this hint of garlic in both smell and taste.
As a matter of fact, the bianchetto or whitish truffle has a much stronger flavour than the precious white truffle and must therefore be used in the right way in cooking so as not to risk covering up the other flavours of the dish to which it is added.
Autumn truffle and summer truffle: scent of forest and hazelnuts
The precious white truffle shares part of its harvest season with a truffle from the black family: we are talking about the autumn truffle, a truffle that is very versatile in cooking thanks to its flavour reminiscent of hazelnuts, porcini mushrooms and parmesan cheese.
So, the aroma of the autumn truffle (a.k.a. uncinato or hooked truffle) is also reminiscent of hazelnuts. However, its intensity is stronger than that of its closer sibling, the summer truffle. In fact, the autumn truffle is also called the winter scorzone and absorbs more of the scents of the humidity, forest, and vegetation in which it grows than the summer scorzone.
In fact, the latter is harvested between May and September. Thus, it reveals a truffle scent reminiscent of roasted barley malt and hazelnuts, but much less intense than that of the autumn truffle.
How to recognise truffles by their scent: precious black and brumale truffle
As the season of the precious white truffle and the autumn truffle comes to an end, another season opens for the most precious truffle of the black family, the Black Precious Truffle (or Norcia black truffle). These truffles are distinguished by their sweet and delicate flavour, but also by their enveloping and intense, aromatic, and fruity aroma, reminiscent of the undergrowth.
A scent that makes the precious black truffle perfect for many recipes, together with its flavour: for example, it is very suitable for preparing truffle desserts. In fact, the precious black truffle has a sweet aftertaste that perfectly matches the one of cream or eggs in a tasty tiramisu or that of fresh cheese in a delicious cheesecake.
On the other hand, the scent of another truffle from the black family is quite different: we are talking about the brumale truffle, a variety whose season runs from December to February, and which is distinguished by its scent reminiscent of almond and nutmeg. This type of truffle also has a very pronounced and strong flavour, and it is perfect for those who love strong tastes. These characteristics make it very different from the precious black truffle and bring it closer to another variety, the Moscato truffle, which can be recognised not only by its peridium and gleba appearance, but also by the distinct musky notes typical of its scent.
In short, the truffle scent (which also makes it possible for us to recognise a truffle gone bad) transports us into a world of different intensities, fragrances, and notes: a world in which the marriage of different essences gives rise to a characteristic aroma, unique to each truffle.
After all, each truffle absorbs the scents of its surroundings and allows us to bring to the table not only a truffle dish, but a universe of unique, original, and unrepeatable scents and flavours that recall notes and fragrances of the undergrowth. A trip where every adventure is always new, always different… and always fascinating.