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Perigord and Alba Truffles
Costlier than gold: the Périgord truffle of France and the white Alba truffle of the Piedmont, in Italy. Photos by Kelly Cline | IST.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

KAREN HOCHMAN is Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE.

 

 

December 2006
Updated January 2009

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Vegetables

Truffles: An Overview & Glossary

Page 8: White Truffles

 

This is Page 8 of a 12-page article. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.

 

Truffle Glossary: White Truffles

 

The two finest white varieties are from Italy: the great Tuber magnatum pico—the Alba truffle—and Tuber albidum pico, or Bianchetto. It can be confusing, because the Alba truffle is not Tuber albidum pico, but Tuber magnatum pico. The easiest way to remember this is with this phrase: The Alba truffle is magnatum, not albidum Say it a few times, and it will stick!

White truffles are softer and more perishable than black truffles, and are almost always served raw (they cannot tolerate the heat of cooking). Generally, they are gently warmed for a few minutes to help enhance their bouquet.

There are many types of white truffles. As with black truffles, all are inferior to the main event, the Magnatum or Alba truffle. Some connoisseurs will only eat the Magnatum. So, when you are offered white truffles, you need to know, as with black, what you are buying. Lesser truffles may cost significantly less, but they are still very expensive. You may wish to save up and experience the real thing.

Magnatum or Alba Truffle or White Piedmont Truffle. Tuber magnatum pico is also known as the white truffle, the Alba white truffle, in Italian, bianco pregiato (pregiato means precious or rare), in French truffe blanche du Piemont (photo at top of page). It is found from October 1 through December 31, chiefly in the Piemonte (Piedmont) and Emilia Romagna regions of northern Italy (it can be found, though in much smaller amounts, in some areas of central Italy and in southern France). It is found in the vicinity of oaks, lime trees and poplars. are not white. It is known for its luscious, heady aroma. The surface is smooth, but it is not white—it has a creamy, cafe au lait color that can have yellow and grey highlights. The veined flesh (gleba) varies from blond to chestnut depending on the type of tree that hosts the truffle. The skin is smooth and shows yellow-grey coloration; the flesh has a light whitish-reddish-brownish cast with white veins. Its aroma is reminiscent of garlic, shallot and cheese. It is only consumed raw, usually shaved over pasta or rice. It loses all flavor when cooked. The name “magnatum” refers to the rarity and costliness: only magnates could afford them. The name Alba comes from the Italian town in the Piedmont region in the northwest corner of Italy that is the center of the white truffle trade. The second most famous white truffle town is Asti, a city (and province) in Piedmont. Pico, part of its botanical species name, honors the Italian botanist who first identified Tuber Magnatum.

Albidum or Bianchetto (bee-on-KEHT-toe) Truffle or March Truffle or Tuscan Truffle. Tuber albidum pico or Tuber borchii vitt., is also also known as the bianchetto (whitish) and the marzuolo (March) truffle for the peak month of harvest, the Spring truffle, the Tuscan truffle, the blanquette or bianchetti truffle. It has a sharp taste when raw. But when added to oil or butter, its flavor becomes similar to the prized Tuber Magnatum Pico. The season is from January 10 through April 30th. The name honors both the town of Alba and the botanist Pico. The majority of white truffle products (truffle paste, truffle oil, e.g.) are made with the Albidum truffle.

Continue To Page 9: Truffle Glossary ~ Other Truffle Terms

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