The Australian Truffle Industry’s history is fairly short; the first trees seeded with black truffle spores took place in Australia in 1993 and the first truffle was produced six years later in 1999, in Tasmania.
The Western Australians were instrumental in commercialising the industry in the mid 2000’s and now there are growers in every state and territory (bar the NT), with an estimated 150 registered growers. The Tasmanian and Western Australian growers still lead the way, by way of larger commercial growing operations, but NSW and Victorian growers contribute to over 60% of the market with approximately 95 smaller scaled independant and contracted grower truffière.
In 2010, Australian production of Black Truffle was estimated at 1.7 tonne and it’s forecast that by the end of the 2011 season, production will double. The Australian Truffle Industry is only a baby, but growing at an exponential rate.
I blame the wines, a later than normal night on a school night and the intense flavour of truffle that continued to resonate on my tastebuds, but it was mainly the wines.
After the Truffle Redux last Monday night, I
foolishly jumped online and ordered a 50g truffle from Friend & Burrell for my own greedy experiments and consumption. The rest of the week was largely spent worrying about what to make with it. The other bits of the week left over were dealing to my buyer’s remorse. But hey, it’s tax refund time; if you can’t treat yourself, what can you do?
See? There’s always a plausible rationale. And a lot less coin than year’s 55 inch LED 3D TV that I was compelled to purchase for the family.
Bryan Burrell and I coordinated our rendezvous out the front of my city office building on Friday afternoon. It reminded me a little of how a covert drug deal might go down. He rings me, I give him the location in code, he meets me downstairs, he’s the one in the dark glasses and overcoat, I’m wearing a flower in my lapel… well, that wasn’t exactly how it played out. The most striking thing was the undeniable perfume that hit you in the face like a rolled up newspaper when Bryan opened the back door to his car.
WHACK! It may indeed put you off truffles, through desensitisation. Then again it might not. It was amazing! Just when I couldn’t get more impressed, Bryan opened a large styrofoam esky to reveal a casual 8kgs of Western Australian truffles that arrived the day before. That was 24 grand’s worth of gear right in front of my eyes, only no threat of getting busted by ‘the man’.
Bryan also generously threw in some of their Iranian Sargol saffron and several Papa New Guinean vanilla beans to try out. For that, Bryan, you get a second plug: http://www.friendandburrell.com.au/
So with the exchange made, I raced straight home to settle my new baby in with whatever eggs we had in the fridge to impart the truffle flavour through the pourous egg shell and permeate the egg itself. I don’t remember much of high school science lessons, but I am thankful for osmosis in this instance.
The next day was Saturday; time for a few preparations. The first cab off the rank was Truffled Butter. SJ put me onto Naomi’s Butter, made lovingly by Naomi Ingleton at The Butter Factory in Myrtleford, Victoria. Fortunately, Key Ingredients in Clifton Hill were relatively close to save me having to battle the Queen Vic Markets. Or the drive to Myrtleford.
There wasn’t much science to making the butter. I was more trying to get over the anxiety of cutting into ‘Nugget’. Sure, he’d only been part of our family for around 18 hours, but he’d given so much joy to us. Mainly through us opening the fridge door and taking a big whiff. But it was time for some amputation.
For the 250g stick of butter, I decided 15g of truffle would be appropriate. So I had a best guess at slicing off roughly a third and the scales told me I was only 1 gram off at 16g. So far so good.
Fifteen grams of truffle looks like a lot when it goes through a microplane. After a quick mix of the planed truffle through the softened butter, I scooped the lot into a ramekin, covered it with cling wrap and chucked it into the fridge. After sampling what little evidence of truffled butter remained in the mixing bowl, I was glad I opted for salted butter.
Truffle dish number two was going to be a given. Since we missed out on sampling the Fromager des Clarines at the truffle dinner, I was always going to have to make this. Plus, it was also a tactic for K to approve of my extravagant purchase.
Although it seemed as simple as cutting horizontally into a chilled wheel of soft cheese, loading it up with as much truffle as it will hold, put the halves back together and wait for a few days before greedily tucking in, there were some specific instructions I was provided to ensure optimal success. I mean, throwing fifty bucks worth of truffle into an already twenty dollar cheese makes it a tad expensive experiment, therefore I wanted to get it as right as I could.