Today was the truffle market at Moussoulens, just northwest of Carcassonne. The beauty above is the one that came home with me, ringing in at 25€ (the going price is 800€ per kilogram). It will perfume my meals for a week, and that includes a truffled risotto dinner I plan to have with a few friends.

These were too big for my budget.

It’s a glorious January day in the south of France. The Pyrénées gleam white along the southern horizon, their rugged peaks etched in fine detail by the sunshine. Not a cloud in the deep blue sky. A little cold–just above freezing in the morning, though the afternoon will be much warmer. Perfect truffle weather–nice and dry.

Buyers at the tables of various truffle sellers.

I got there too late to watch the truffle market open to the shot of a gun by the mayor, signaling the drop of the rope separating sellers and buyers. Most of the small truffles were gone already–the ones that remained were beauties, but expensive, at 800€ per kilogram. Of course, nobody short of a restaurant would buy a whole kilo of truffles. They stay good for just over a week. They work best in very simple recipes that let the black slivers get all the attention–risotto, eggs, pumpkin soup, even chocolate mousse. Truffles are more like a force than a flavor. They amplify other flavors, like chocolate. You get this sensation of earthy richness rather than an easy-to-identify taste like, say, orange or pepper or garlic. I guess that’s umami.

Because of Covid, only takeout food was permitted. You could get a full meal to go for 20€, if you ordered in advance. The menu:

Pumpkin-chestnut velouté (thick, velvety soup) with truffle cream

Quiche with Bréton scallops, bethmale (a hard cow’s milk cheese from Pyrénées of Ariège, the department just south of Carcassonne) and Cabardès truffles (Cabardès is one of the smallest French wine regions, just north of Carcassonne), prepared by Jérôme Ryan, a local Michelin-star chef.

Truffled brie

Truffled rice pudding

Truffled butter

There were other things to take home, too.

More truffled butter
Truffled fresh goat cheese
Truffled Camembert (raw milk) and truffled brie from Meaux
Eggs and truffle in a jar (above and below)

If you store your truffle in a sealed container with eggs or rice, the eggs or rice absorb the perfume of the truffle. Kind of amps up your truffle experience beyond shavings.

Brouillade is like scrambled eggs, but very loose and creamy, not fluffy at all. Borderline custard. Delish. I had hoped to get some for a late breakfast–usually they cook it in enormous paella pans, a good meter in diameter. But Covid nixed that. I gave instructions for brouillade in a previous post here.

Food to go is one thing, but wine must be tasted. That required the pass sanitaire to enter the tasting area. It was too early for me, and besides I was driving.

The wine-tasting area
Animated explanations. They are passionate about their métier.

Speaking of early, yesterday I went to the market practically at dawn and it was quite different from my usual late-morning trips. The vendors were bundled up and grousing about the chill. These clear blue days mean no cover at night, and temperatures around freezing, a bit colder than average. Anyway, I spied three vendors at a folding table behind a stand, having breakfast before the crowds developed. A 15-liter box of wine was on the table, too. Among the stands, wooly blankets protected the lettuce sections from freezing.

Back to the truffle market, a band was playing (see my Instagram; I can’t post videos here because I use the free version of WordPress), and there were lots of non-truffle stands, from organic vegetables to olive oil and olive-oil soaps to honey to jewelry.

Hams, straight from the farm
Clementines, hazelnuts, almonds
Walnuts and nutcrackers
Pink garlic from Lautrec (just north of Toulouse)
Children’s books, including in the Occitan language, in a stand set up in a garage.

A dog and master demonstrated finding a truffle that had been buried, but I was too short to get a photo with so many people in front. Truffled oak trees were for sale–like all mushrooms, truffles reproduce via spores. They particularly like oak ecosystems. These saplings are in dirt that should have spores around their roots. When truffles are harvested, the dirt is carefully brushed off and saved, not to lose the precious spores. Climate change, loss of habitat to construction and over-harvesting have made it important to nurture truffles. One of my old running routes, through vineyards and garrigue, passed a truffle farm, well away from any roads, out of sight unless one followed barely there paths, and protected by electrified fencing. 800€ a kilo….

Truffled dirt

At the markets in Aude, an inspector checks each truffle–any bad spots are cut off (at that price you want every milligram to be good!). The organizers also provided recipes and a bunch of information about not getting ripped off:

To choose your truffle product: “Commercial truffle flavorings are prepared with a handful of aromatic chemical products that badly imitate truffle flavors and that in fact contain no truffles.”

“Truffle flavor = synthetic”

“Natural flavor = yes, natural, but doesn’t come from truffles!”

“Products with truffles have minimum 1% black truffles”

“Truffled products contain a minimum of 3% black truffles”

“A fan or lay person who wants to appreciate or discover the black truffle should do it at events organized by organizations of truffle growers which exclude any sale of products based on truffle aromas.”

“There are 15-20 fragrant molecules per truffle species. Commercial truffle flavorings contain about four times fewer fragrant molecules than real truffles.”

“Warning, a lot of truffled products are badly labeled; lots of labels are deceptive!!”

“Without artificial flavors–but in fact natural without truffle!”

“Natural flavor of truffle–used instead of natural flavor!”

“For example, oils claiming to be “truffle flavored” with bits of freeze-dried truffles, all contain added artificial flavor.”

“The only way to transmit this flavor is by impregnating it in fat (butter, eggs, cream) from fresh truffles.”

Truffle season starts in November, and there’s usually a truffle market just before Christmas, but it really takes off in January and February. There exist “summer truffles,” a related species, but they aren’t nearly as strong in flavor or scent.

22 thoughts on “Truffles!

  1. NICE TO HEAR FROM YOU!
    I DO NOT THINK I HAVE EVER HAD A SHAVING OF FRESH TRUFFLES!
    HAVE BEEN GIVEN TRUFFLE OIL TOO STRONG FOR MY TASTE…….
    LOVE THAT THEY WERE PARTAKING IN VINO IN THE MORNING!!!
    ONLY TO WARM UP THEIR BODIES…………
    YOU LIVE IN A BEAUTIFUL PART OF THE WORLD!
    I HAVE A FRENCHMAN ON MY BLOG POST TODAY!
    COME OVER AND SAY HELLO………ASK HIM A QUESTION MAYBE IN FRENCH?!!!
    XXX

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Truffle dirt and truffle oak trees! Count me in! Where I live in Texas, the oak tree rules, but I know I’d have to nurture and protect them from the neighborhood dogs and cars, not to mention the squirrels that are into everything. Your truffle risotto sounds wonderful. Loved this post. Thank you! xoxox, Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your market is quite beautiful! I live quite near Carpentras, one of the truffle capitals in the Vaucluse, and this time of year there are two truffle markets on Friday; one is part of the regular huge Carpentras market (famous and very ancient) and the other one is in the courtyard of a gorgeous public building recently restored, and only professionals are allowed in that one. The info about “fake” truffles was very interesting, I didn’t know about that. I have not yet learned how to cook with truffles but am planning to find a good class and give it a try. Thanks for a very useful post!
    bonnie near carpentras

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think with truffles less is more. Not less truffle, but less everything else. Just made a brouillade for supper, and it was heavenly. Eggs and truffles and a little butter.
      I have read that in Carpentras, you can smell the truffles as soon as you get out of your car.

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      1. My car is always parked quite a distance from the truffle market, which is at the top of the market outside the tourist office. There isn’t much parking in that area on the market day, as the parking is taken over by the market! I will try to notice, but this sounds like one of those urban myths…..
        bonnie near carpentras and the truffles

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Your truffle is a thing of beauty! Here in mid America a fine restaurant will sometimes be able to get ahold of fresh truffles and then charge big bucks to shave some on your entrée. Have you seen “Truffle Hunters” on Netflix? It’s Italy but I wonder if the French truffle hunters are plagued by the same issues.

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  5. Oh, my darling, Clementine … Hello ToF! I’ve never tasted a clementine but I’ve had the odd shaving of truffle during my travels over time. Quite delicious!

    Your truffle market, however, sounds something else with its modest pageantry. Life in France is really marked by the calendar and tradition. No matter how valiantly the Lifestyle is attempted elsewhere, it will never love up the the real deal.

    With luck, the tasty offerings will resume next year and you can sit in the sunshine eating that most scrumptious-sounding scallop quiche!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “They stay good for just over a week.” What a great reminder from mother nature that sometimes it’s important to live in the moment.

    So nice to check my email and see that there is a new blog post from you! Judging from the many comments above, I’m not the only one to enjoy your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a great market! Ours is more about meat and veg, but we do have excellent local truffles. I don’t share them, to be honest, not the truffles straight-up. Guests have to settle for truffled cheese. Jacques is developing a taste for truffles. Maybe I should put him to work.

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  8. Yes, get Jacques trained! The only thing is dodging bullets from drunk hunters in the woods.
    This market is a special one–all about truffles, plus a few other things because they are in the village. Otherwise, the markets aren’t usually on Sunday (OK, some are, but Saturday is more the Market Day) and they don’t have truffles.
    We used to get a truffle or two from a village trufficulteur who would come to our house–talk about service! But the seasonal truffle markets are fun, too.

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  9. Oh my, my mouth is watering reading this post! How fun to have a local truffle market with the mayor starting it off with a bang. I must say I cannot hear the word ‘truffe’ or see a picture of one without thinking of a dog’s nose, as the word is also used for that. And as for the flavour, I will reserve myself for the real thing if and when it presents itself. So turned off by all the fake chemical truffle oil out there. Far from the subtle power of the actual truffle. Hope you enjoyed your treasure!

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  10. What a delightful post! I felt like I was there…thank you for this thrill. : ) Truffles are so delicious, but so expensive that I just excite our own meals here at FrenchGardenHouse with truffle oil and truffle butter. Which are both delightful. So nice to visit you again. xo Lidy

    Liked by 1 person

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