IT IS TRUFFLE SEASON!!!
Yes, the fungus that is so hard to grow and so expensive to purchase! Tis’ the season to shed a couple of pounds off your wallet and hand it over to the truffle farmers!
We’ve recently caught onto the truffle craze (Thank Goodness, else we’d be bankrupt by now) and The Boy has been having so much fun on the weekends coming up with recipes so that he can shave truffles on them.
At $2.50-$2.90 per gram (yes, gram!), truffles are certainly an indulgence that we can afford once every few years!
To satiate our curiosity on how truffle is ‘farmed’ and to get our hands onto some freshly harvested truffles, we paid Black Cat Cottage & Trufferie in Creswick a visit one wet, windy, cold weekend.
As we got to the farm, we were greeted by the most enthusiastic, friendly and beautiful dog named Ella! She was soooooooo adorable. All she wanted to do was play with everyone but she had a job to do and we were not allowed to distract her. She still managed to find her way into people’s palms to get pats. Clever dog!
We also learnt that almost any dog can be trained to hunt for truffles. All you need is patience and good training.
So where and how are pigs involved with truffle farming? Pigs are sometimes used for ‘hunting’ truffles as truffles give out a distinct scent that is akin to a boar trying to get kinky with it 0_0 But the usage of pigs are fraught with danger (and potential loss of fingers), so most countries utilise dogs for hunting instead.
We watched Ella as Lynette told her to ‘find’, a search term for ‘find all the truffles!’. After Ella marks a spot, she’s provided with a treat.
The spot is either marked for future harvesting as the dog keeps hunting, or the farmer gets down on their knees to start digging to check if the truffle is ready for harvesting.
At Black Cat Trufferie, they grow their truffles by planting English Oak and Holly Oak trees in alternating rows. They’ve recently added another 50 trees inoculated with Summer Black Truffle just for variety.
The Central Highlands region is an ideal region for growing truffles with its combination of cold winters with good frosts and nice warm summers. These are optimum requirements to kick off the fruiting bodies and maturation process in the truffle.
After the hard work of watching both Lynette and Ella hunt for truffles, Andres talked us through the history of Black Cat and the types of trees used for the inoculation of the truffles for their farm. Once we got back to the beautiful warmth of their new shed, we were acquainted with truffle tasting freshly harvested from the farm! Hooray!
We started out with some bread and truffle oil to show us the difference in fermented oil and the fresh truffles.
Then the party got started! We had delicious chunks of shaved truffles with d’Affinois cheese on bread (give me more!), which has now started a new form of addiction in our household.
Then we had more grated truffles with a hearty vegetable soup before finishing off with a glorious vanilla ice-cream with more truffles!
This was our first experience tasting fresh truffles as well as view first hand behind-the-scenes of truffle hunting.
I must admit that it wasn’t as dark and forbidding or romantic as I had visualised. Instead, it is hard work, back breaking and with a lot of disappointment. Quite a lot of truffles do end up inedible due to rot.
If truffles are your thing, best you hurry up as winter is almost over!
If you are keen to visit a Truffle Farm and get your hands on some delicious truffles by visiting Black Cat Cottage, here are the details:
Black Cat Cottage & Truffles
150 Howards Road
Wattle Flat VIC 3352
Tel: (03) 5334 5563 / 0403 394 144
Website (for events): http://blackcattruffles.com.au/whatsup.html
[Ms I-Hua and The Boy visited Black Cat Cottage & Truffles as guests of the Ballarat Regional Tourism]