Diamonds in the Dordogne

Diamonds in the Dordogne

Bondholders holidaying at HPB’s Constant home in France’s beautiful Dordogne have many pleasures to choose from – not least walks; the region’s well-marked paths follow glorious cliffs, wind along forgotten river valleys, explore medieval villages and of course the most unspoilt scenery.

And there are plenty of them! Constant’s own Walks Guide numbers no fewer than 16, most “doable” straight from the site and only one or two requiring a short drive to the start/finish point.

But Bondholders taking Walk No 1 do so largely unaware that there’s quite possibly a fortune under their feet. Walk No 1 takes them past the truffière of Claude Perrot who, with his faithful truffle-hounds Ursuline and Woofie, has been digging for the Dordogne delicacy for the past decade or more.

Claude takes up the story…

I have only been hunting truffles for over 10 years. Each year is different, depending on the weather and a lot of other factors.

Harvest time is from December to the beginning of March, though sometimes they turn up as early as the beginning of October. Unfortunately the early truffles are not very good because they have no smell; they don’t really start to acquire flavour until December.

They are several truffles markets in the Dordogne but the most important, in terms of both quantity and quality, is the St Alvère market, 15 kms from Constant. It opens on 5th December, and trade continues until the end of February. Because of the delicacy’s high value, the trade is heavily regulated by the local council. Market or no market, however, many of us think the best truffles start to appear in January, once they’ve been hardened off by the winter – it makes them develop that distinctive scent and flavour.**quote**

There are two main truffles on the market. The best one is tuber melanosporum, the so-called “Périgord truffle”; this is the most aromatic and the most expensive: from 400€-per-kg to 1,000€-per-kg depending on the season and the quality. But there is another kind of very interesting truffle called tuber muscari or tuber brumale; this has a different smell, more musky. The price is lower than “Melano”, at 150€-per-kg to 300€-per-kg, but the flavour is great in soup and potage.

Traditionally, pigs were used to hunt for truffles, but these days most of us use dogs – easier to train, and they don’t eat truffles!

There are a lot of dishes using truffles, obviously. Truffle goes beautifully with eggs; is delicious on toast with a little foie gras; and adds a real extra something to baked potatoes and cheese (blue Stilton for example). These dishes are simple, but sometimes simplicity is best.

My advice about truffles is : don’t overcook and don’t overuse – a little goes a long way. Just add a little to whatever you fancy: salmon, vegetables, eggs or cheese, and enjoy with a glass of good Bergerac wine.

The biggest truffle I have ever found was 280gs: not so heavy. But I am young yet and I hope to find more!

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